TH!NK post

LERMA: A Dying River in Mexico

Published 15th October 2010 - 4 comments - 3408 views -

As my everyday way to my university, whenever I go by bus or by car, there is a part on the road where the air stinks so bad that usually everybody has to cover his or her nose for a few seconds until the unpleasant odour is left behind…

Would you like to know what causes this horrible smell?

The reason is called: RIO LERMA (Lerma River)


A little bit of history…

The Lerma Santiago River (or commonly known as “Rio Lerma”) is Mexico’s second longest river. At the same time it used to be a source of drinking water for the capital and the centre of the country. During the 17th and 18th centuries, large haciendas were established along this river. Unfortunately, today this river is dying. 

Fatally infected by a considerable number of sources of pollution (factories), millions of dollars have been used into efforts to revive and clean it, without many good results.


"Lerma River"
Picture taken from:


But…what causes the pollution?

According to Patricia Vega Villavicencio’s article published on ipsnews’ website:

“In the last 16 years, the local government of Mexico state, which borders on the federal district of Mexico City, has spent 714 million dollars on wastewater treatment plants and has only managed to clean up 27 percent of the 125 kilometres of the Lerma's course across the state”

It is well known among local people that the river is contaminated, as there are important industries and factories in the same area (those that produce meat, dairy,beverages, pulp and paper, leather goods, petrochemical and chemical products) and they throw their wastes to the river. Later on the article, Vega Villavicencio continued:

“There appears to be no prospect for a cessation of hostilities on the Lerma River. Environmentalists have calculated that 90 percent of its waters are contaminated, and they predict that no recovery will be possible unless strategies are changed.”



"When money becomes more important than environment"
Picture taken from:


Lerma River pollution is “costing an expensive price”, or maybe an unmeasurable one, as several publications have reported that people living close to it, have been physically affected.

Periódico El Sur (Meaning South Journal) published an article where it confirms that because of the pollution in the Lerma River, there has been “a noticeable increase on cancer deaths.”

In another journal, La Jornada from Michoacan, author Celic Mendoza wrote  “there have been cases of cancer (leuchemia) in children, as a result of pollution caused by industries that shed substances into the river.”

Jeff Conant wrote an article published by the Earth Island Journal, where he tells a tragical story:

"In January 2008, an eight-year-old boy named Miguel Angel Lopez Rocha fell into the Santiago River near the El Salto Falls. The boy was rescued immediately, but within two days, he had fallen ill. Nineteen days later, he was dead. One medical report said the cause of death was septicemia, a general term for a septic infection of the blood. Another autopsy indicated heavy metal poisoning; arsenic in Miguel Angel’s blood was 10 times the fatal dose. The boy’s death caused a shock and brought revived attention to one of Mexico’s worst environmental disasters."

Let's remember that not only humans are affected by this tragical causality, as La Jornada journal publicated in another article: “thousands of fish died in the Lerma River, at the height of the Cuatro Milpas community due to the severe pollution suffered by the affluent, as environmental groups said. Municipal and federal authorities confirmed that the phenomenon was due to a naturalphenomenon, consequence of a lack of oxygen. "


Finally, I would like to finish my post with a video I found on youtube (posted by natitachulita) on the Lerma Chapala River current situation (it is in Spanish). It is called "Agua para Llorar", meaning Water for Crying.




Thank you for reading my post, and for helping me create international awareness on one of the worst water pollution problems in Mexico. Hopefully, I will write a post soon on the same subject, but maybe with positive news about some actions that will be effectively taken for this river to survive in a clean way.

I would like to ask my readers what do they think of this problem? Can you think of similar ones in your own countries?

TH!NK ABOUT IT - Blog Action Day 2010


(Andrea Arzaba, October 2010)

Category: Health Effects, | Tags:


Andrea Arzaba on 17th October 2010:

Febi, Thank you so much for your comments. I wonder if this situation is way more common in developing countries than in developed ones…

Claudia, I am glad this post served you in any way!

Hussam Hussein on 18th October 2010:

Andrea, that rocks! Thanks for your post! As you know, I’m drawn to this issue, and frankly speaking, didn’t know about this specific case.. would love to get to know more about the Mexican water issues.

  • Remember my personal information

    Notify me of follow-up comments?

    --- Let's see if you are human ---

    Who are kings of the jungle: lions or zebras? Add a questionmark to your answer. (6 character(s) required)