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The Great Storm of the End of June

by César Arias de la Canal
translated from the July newsletter of El Charco del Ingenio

We were all surprised by the unusual nocturnal storm, with its gales and great fall of water and hail. The next day we learned about the multiple damages it caused in the urban area of San Miguel. We could view photos and videos of raging streams running through downtown streets and accumulations of mud and stones dragged by the water. These alluvial flows were particularly intense in two streams northeast of the city: the Atascadero stream (Santo Domingo), and the small contiguous Saramago stream, which flows into the Obraje reservoir. Why was such havoc caused by a rain that lasted just over an hour? The answer is not complicated.

Until a few years ago, the high areas located northeast of the city were not as extensively urbanized as they are now. The earth and its plant cover had the ability to absorb the intense rains, reducing the runoff to the streams towards the lower parts of the city. But from the beginning of this century, when the intensive urbanization of these high areas was authorized, these hydraulic dynamics changed radically. More and more the surfaces are occupied by housing developments, shopping centers, industries, etc. These diverse constructions, covered with cement, prevent the penetration of the rainwater into the land. With hundreds of hectares practically sealed, unable to be absorbed, the rainwater drains in large volumes into the natural streams and is carried in the direction of the urban area.

To cite only two cases, the natural slope of the Atascadero, massively occupied by the Capilla de Piedra development, has been deprived of its ability to absorb rainwater, causing the powerful flood that washed the street of Santo Domingo on the night of the storm. Also, the recent developments of La Luminaria and El Deseo, unable to filter rainwater, caused a large flow to enter the the Saramago stream, dragging mud and stones to block the road of Balcones and Montitlán. We are at the beginning of the rainy season. What's next?

Unfortunately, the urbanization of the upper areas, northeast of the city, continues unabated, breaking land use ordinances and increasing year by year the risk of avalanches and floods in San Miguel de Allende.

Who will stop this madness?

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César Arias de la Canal is from an original family of San Miguel de Allende. He is a lawyer, graduated from the Escuela Libre de Derecho, a researcher and a human rights activist. He was a member of the Mexican Section of Amnesty International, in which he participated for several years.

He was a professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco, as well as the Universidad Veracruzana, in the Port of Veracruz, where he also worked as a journalist. He is the author of books and publications on social and environmental issues.

In San Miguel de Allende, he is currently president of El Charco del Ingenio / Botanical Garden and Natural Area, a project he founded together with other Sanmiguelenses and residents in 1990. He has participated in the creation of various community projects, such as the cultural center El Sindicato. His participation in several civil organizations has been oriented to the defense of the natural and cultural heritage. He is a member of the citizen group Va Por San Miguel de Allende AC.

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