The Motagua River begins in the Department of Quiche in western Guatemala and it is estimated that its flow reaches 6,500 million m3 per year and ends in the Caribbean coast of Guatemala after traversing the country from west to east. The basin is home to more than four million people. Among the ecosystems represented along the river are ten of the fourteen “life zones” of Guatemala, and seven of the fourteen ecoregions of Guatemala, including: Atlantic rainforests, Central American mountains, Pine Oak forests, dry area, Mangroves of the Belize Coast and northern Honduras, and thorny shrub land in the Motagua Valley, an important reservoir of environmental goods and services, for the protection of biodiversity and the reduction of erosion. The Basin of the Motagua River can be divided into 3 large sub-basins: upper, middle, and lower. Guatemala City with its large population and concentration of business and industry impacts the upper river and the start of the mid-basin. The upper and lower basins, on the other hand, have lower population concentrations in larger spaces, but they have other pressures such as forest fires, overexploitation of water, erosion and sedimentation, the effects of changes in land use and the growth of extractive industries and agro-industrial production, and in the case of the lower basin everyone suffers the consequences of the economic activities upstream, flood damage and drought. In recent years the deterioration of natural resources and water in the basin has increased, with pressure from the (over)use of natural resources, inappropriate use of soil and biological resources, the absence of land use norms and industrial activity and agribusinesses that dump their waste into the river without prior treatment. For example, with overpopulation has come increased untreated discharges from urban areas , particularly Guatemala city, which discharges a third of its untreated wastewater into the river; the export agribusiness (of bananas and melons) and the livestock processing industry and the construction industry with cement factories, etc., and the overexploitation of groundwater. These threats have significant impacts on the health of people who live along or adjacent to the Rio especially children and women.
Ms. Jeanette de Noack is the Río Motagua Waterkeeper and Executive Director of the Guatemalan non-governmental organization Alianza de Derecho Ambiental y Agua (Alliance for Environmental and Water Law), its parent organization. She has a law degree from Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala, a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Central School of Diplomacy and has specialized training on International Environmental Policy at the University of Florida and on Environmental Law at the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. Ms. Noack has over a decade of experience as an environmental attorney in Guatemala and throughout Central America. Her professional experience spans work with Guatemalan NGOs like Centro de Acción Legal Ambiental y Social (Center for Legal, Environmental, and Social Action) and stints as a member of IUCN’s Commission on Environmental Law and as a fellow at Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) focusing on building capacity to protect the Mesoamerican Reef System. She trains fellow Guatemalan colleagues on the legal defense of marine, coastal, and freshwater resources.
Km 21.5 carretera a San Lucas No. 58 El Campestre Zona 1