U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol M. Browner and Julia Carabias, Mexico''s environmental minister, met last Thursday to review environmental progress between the two countries in over the past six years.
The meeting of the environmental ministers took place in Washington, D.C., during the Binational Commission meeting, an annual conference of the cabinets of the United States and Mexico.
According to Browner, there has been significant progress in the efforts to improve environmental conditions in the two countries, particularly in the boarder area, and major initiatives to include states, tribes and the private sector in climate change cooperative projects.
"Progress has been made in efforts to improve water and air quality, information exchange on sitting hazardous waste facilities, and responses to environmental emergencies in boarder cities," said Browner. "A solid foundation has been laid and I am confident that the bilateral progress will be sustained because of the commitment of both countries to environmental quality."
The boarder area''s population of 12 million U.S. and Mexican residents, fueled in part by dramatic industrial growth, is expected to double in the next 20 years.
Infrastructure and ecosystems are expected to face serious challenges in water quality and quantity, waste management, and air quality, according to EPA.
Two NAFTA side-agreement organizations have contributed to the improvements referenced by the environmental officials.
Since the institutions'' founding in 1994, the Boarder Environmental Cooperation Commission and the North American Development Bank have helped in launching a number of projects for treating drinking water and wastewater and managing solid waste.
Six of the projects are complete and operating, and an additional 16 are under construction.
The 22 projects cost approximately $640 million and, when complete, will serve more than 5 million U.S. and Mexican citizens.
by Virginia Sutcliffe