Professor Timothy Randhir of the department of environmental conservation led a delegation of professionals from western Massachusetts to study environmental sustainability efforts in the Grijalva-Usumacinta (GU) watershed of southern Mexico from Jan. 15-25.
The large watershed covers parts of the Chiapas and Tabasco regions and is home to 6 million people and rich biodiversity. The area consists of one-third of the freshwater supplies in Mexico and supports a varied flora and fauna that are endemic to the region. The delta of this river system forms the Centla wetland, which covers 17,200 square kilometers, almost three times the area of the Everglades. The watershed has been experiencing severe deforestation and flooding that affect livelihoods of several communities in the region. Climate change impacts are also evident in the region, affecting river flows and changing ecosystems.
The visit was organized by the Institute of Training and Development (ITD) in South Amherst, which received funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs for professional exchange on environmental sustainability among three Latin American countries: Uruguay, Peru and Mexico. In the past two years, 20 environmental professionals from Mexico participated as professional fellows in the U.S.
The members of the U.S. delegation included representatives from ITD, Smith College, the City of Springfield, Springfield Technical Community College and SWCA, a private environmental consulting firm. The delegation’s exchange visit aimed at comparing commonalities and approaches between the Connecticut River Watershed and GU watershed. The delegation visited Centla wetland reserve and met with leaders and park managers to exchange knowledge in conserving this large wetland system. The delegation also met with stakeholders in the central and headwater regions of the GU watershed, including community leaders and government officials in forest management and river systems. The group visited organizations involved in community-based conservation efforts.