The promotion of traditional knowledge and practices, the encouragement of crops that require less water, and the need to strengthen water stewardship, are some of the key actions needed to address the crisis of Lake Chapala, the largest in Mexico. An international symposium held in the city of Guadalajara in March 2023 set the foundation to start building an Action Plan that articulates these proposals, and that will ultimately be presented to local and national decision-makers and stakeholders.
The “International Symposium and Public Forum Lerma-Chapala Basin: Solutions for a territory in crisis” was jointly organized by the Corazon de la Tierra Institute and ITESO (Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara) as part of the Living Lakes Biodiversity & Climate Project. It brought together representatives from civil organizations, academics, specialists, students, and local farmers living in the Sierras of Chapala, alongside 53 experts from Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Guatemala, Japan, Germany and Mexico. This interdisciplinary space served as a platform for action-oriented dialogue and collaborative problem-solving.
Lake Chapala is a crucial habitat for hundreds of plant and animal species and provides key environmental services for forestry, agriculture and urban areas – nearly 5 million people living in the region get their drinking water from the lake.
During the symposium, key issues concerning the management of the Lake and its basin were addressed, and 10 thematic roundtables were held, resulting in approximately 100 lines of action to counter threats and restore the health of Lake Chapala. Discussions focused on land use planning, pollution control, biodiversity management, water management effectiveness, environmental education, sector coordination, community participation, and conflict management.
The symposium set the stage to build an Action Plan for the restoration of Lake Chapala, including a series of proposals for managing the basin that decision-makers and sectors involved in management can use. These proposals should take into account the local complexity and peculiarities of the basin, and they include:
- Encourage crops that take less water and are drought-resistant, to adapt to climate impacts.
- Enforce water regulations, concerning both surface and groundwater use.
- Strengthen a culture of stewardship around water management and use, as well as for the conservation of the basin that is the source of freshwater for the recharge of wells, rivers and Lake Chapala.
A common vision for Lake Chapala
During the symposium, Masahisa Nakamura, Executive Director of the International Lake Environment Committee Foundation, emphasized that lake problems must be addressed from a governance perspective, focusing on information, public policies, social participation, institutional strength, financing mechanisms, and technology.
Thomas Schaefer, Head of the Conservation Unit of the Global Nature Fund, highlighted the global significance of Lake Chapala, and how the Living Lakes Biodiversity & Climate Project will boost the conservation of these precious ecosystems around the world, with actions planned until 2027 in three continents.
At the closing ceremony of the symposium and public forum, the academic Agustín Verduzco committed ITESO’s Permanent Seminar on Water Studies to producing scientific and technical knowledge on water, collaborating in the design of public policies that incorporate the human right to water, and prioritizing communication of produced knowledge.
The Executive Director of Instituto Corazón de la Tierra, Alejandro Juárez, highlighted the need to strengthen existing networks, link community actors and the rural and urban population, address concrete problems with a common vision, and maintain the link between research and management actions, strengthening policies and institutions.