April 27th, 2006 10:38 EST
Environmental Progress in US-Mexico Border Region
(Washington , D.C. - April 27, 2006) U.S. and Mexican officials met today to report significant progress in improving the border area's environmental health at the National Coordinators' Meeting of the Border 2012 Program. Accomplishments to date include:
· Implementation of the first air quality improvement plan in Mexico, an economically sustainable plan to virtually eliminate used tire piles along the U.S.-Mexico border by 2012;
· Removal of 2000 tons of hazardous waste to protect a local, economically disadvantaged residential community;
· Improved drinking water and wastewater infrastructure systems for 1.5 million residents, and;
· Design of emergency response plans to better protect border residents.
The U.S.-Mexico Border 2012 program is a 10-year bi-national cooperative plan that protects public health and the environment along the 2,000-mile border region, home to approximately 12 million inhabitants. Official from the federal, state, local and border tribes all participated at today's meeting.
The officials also agreed on priorities for environmental collaboration for 2007. Included among the priorities for 2007 are increasing access to and improving safe drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, retrofitting of diesel buses and trucks and improving availability of low sulfur diesel fuel on the border, and adoption of a bi-national scrap tire strategy.
The U.S.-Mexico border region is one of the most dynamic in the world. It extends more than 3,100 kilometers (2,000 miles) from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, and 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) on each side of the international border.
The region includes large deserts, numerous mountain ranges, rivers, wetlands, large estuaries, and shared aquifers. The region has various climates, a remarkable biological diversity including many rare and native species, and national parks and protected areas.
While its people share natural resources like water and air, the border region is characterized by many social, economic, and political contrasts.
Ninety percent of the border population resides in 14 paired, inter-dependent sister cities. Over the last 20 years, population has grown rapidly in the border region to more than 11.8 million people. This figure is expected to reach 19.4 million by 2020. Rapid population growth in urban areas has resulted in unplanned development, greater demand for land and energy, increased traffic congestion, increased waste generation, overburdened or unavailable waste treatment and disposal facilities, and more frequent chemical emergencies. Residents in rural areas suffer from exposure to airborne dust, pesticide use and inadequate water supply and waste treatment facilities. Border residents also suffer disproportionately from many environmental health problems, including water-borne diseases and respiratory problems.
With the active participation of the ten border states and U.S. tribal governments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Mexican Secretariat of Health (SS) and other federal agencies, have developed the Border 2012 program to protect the environment and the public’s health in the U.S.-Mexico border region.
The ten-year Border 2012 program emphasizes a bottom-up, regional approach, anticipating that local decision-making, priority-setting, and project implementation will best address environmental issues in the border region. It brings together a wide variety of stakeholders to produce prioritized and sustained actions that consider the environmental needs of the different border communities.
The proposed Border 2012 Program was announced in September 2002 in Mexico at the meeting of the environmental authorities of the ten border states, and in the United States in the Federal Register. These announcements launched a 60-day comment period, during which EPA, SEMARNAT, the ten border states, and U.S. tribes engaged in an intensive public involvement process that included a combination of binational and domestic meetings in 27 cities along the U.S.- Mexico border. EPA and SEMARNAT also solicited input from many interested community and stakeholder groups via additional meetings, internet exchanges, and written correspondence.
During the public comment period, more than 1,000 individual comments were received from border communities and other stakeholders representing industry, non-governmental organizations, academia, state, federal and local governments, and the general public. Based on these comments, the draft Border 2012 framework was revised to incorporate many of the recommendations and priority issues that were conveyed by border stakeholders in an effort to more effectively address environmental problems facing border communities. The Border 2012 Response Summary Report provides a detailed account of the comments received and how they were incorporated into the final document. In addition, program partners developed the Border 2012 Operational Guidance to assist partners, stakeholders and the general public to understand how the program is implemented.
The draft Border 2012 framework was revised to incorporate many of the recommendations and priority issues that were conveyed by border stakeholders in an effort to more effectively address environmental problems facing border communities.