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February 27, 2012

WiLDCOAST Supports SEMARNAT’s Cleanup in Los Laureles

by Paloma Aguirre

On Sunday February 26, 2012 SEMARNAT  (The Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources) coordinated a nation-wide cleanup effort throughout Mexico. WiLDCOAST, invited by Tijuana’s Institute for Municipal Planning  (IMPLAN) helped to coordinate over 40 local residents hired through SEDESOL’s (Secretariat of Social Development) Temporary Employment Program. This program works to help unemployed citizens by involving them in small projects that bring an immediate benefit to their families and community. Projects usually include city cleanups and reforestation efforts.

During Sunday’s cleanup, workers helped to remove trash from a severely impacted area in Los Laureles Canyon, Tijuana. This underserved community lacks adequate trash collection services due to limited city financial resources and the dispersed nature of settlements created by immigrants.  On occasion, some residents sometimes allow illegal dumping on their property to gain land, as was the case of one local property that the representative from IMPLAN pointed out: “We’ve cleaned out this area several times and each time we come back to it, it looks the same again” the representative noted with frustration. “ But it is hard to enforce sanctions because we lack the staff “ 

During Sunday’s efforts workers walked into the dry creek bed and collected trash using large woven bags. During the cleanup I had an opportunity to meet a young man and asked him how long he had lived in the canyon for: “Not very long” he said,  “about nine months.” When asked where he originally was from, to my surprise he said San Diego.“Well I’ve lived there my whole life but my parents brought me from Oaxaca when I was a baby, but they found out I was undocumented and deported me. My wife and baby are still on the other side and I'm trying to provide for them.” His answer was a stark reminder of the unique set of circumstances the border region faces when addressing environmental challenges.

Sunday’s cleanup accounted for approximately 3 tons of trash and 300 waste-tires diverted from crossing the border into the U.S. through the Tijuana River, into the Tijuana Estuary, and ultimately deposited on the south San Diego shoreline.