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National Activities: Mexico

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Report Submitted by Mexico to the Fourth International Workshop on the CSD Indicators of Sustainable Development
Hosted by the Government of the Czech Republic in Prague
19-21 January 1998


1. Introduction

The Ministry of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP) is the public institution in charge of environmental affairs in Mexico. The National Institute of Ecology (INE), a decentralized organization of the SEMARNAP, oversees policy-making decisions for air quality, solid and hazardous waste management , environmental impact assessment, global climate change, ozone depletion, wildlife management and natural reserves. The INE's principle functions are to create environmental policy guidelines, formulate standards and issue environmental permits.

As part of the INE's objectives, the development of environmental indicators has been carried out by the General Directorate of Environmental Management and Information to evaluate Mexico's environmental policy performance and achieve sustainable development.

2. Background
Environmental Information in Mexico

Although, environmental management in Mexico began in 1971, with the Law to Prevent and Control Environmental Pollution, in the last decade Mexico began its efforts to generate and compile environmental information. The following list illustrates the principal reports which have already been published or are in the process of being published:

  • Since 1986, the bi-annual environmental status report has been published;
  • In 1995, the first compendium on environment statistics was published. The second edition is to be published in 1998;
  • In 1997, the Report of Environmental Indicators for the State of Hidalgo, which is in development by State Government and the INE, is based on UN methodological sheets.
  • In 1998, the U.S.-Mexico Environmental Indicators of Border XXI, a model using the UN methodological sheets, will be published.
  • In 1998, the North American Environmental Status Report, a concept based on the OECD's environmental indicators, will be published.
Environmental Indicators

As a result of the 1993 North American Workshop on Environmental Information hosted in Mexico City, the INE began its environment indicator program. Organized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), Environment Canada and the INE, the workshop's main objective was the generation of a database used to create a tri-national environmental report.

Although the establishment of Mexico's environmental indicators was first developed with a regional focus as part of the North American Workshop mentioned earlier, Mexico soon became aware of the importance of a national indicator program. However, the international experience aided the development process at the national level as Mexican policymakers began implementing a information program tailored to country's needs.

Mexico and the OECD

As an OECD member, Mexico is currently completing its first environmental performance assessment, an evaluation which examines among other aspects, the development of information systems. In the preliminary results, OECD stated that Mexico environmental information in Mexico does not sufficiently support the sustainable development policy directions adopted by Mexico. Among others actions, the OCDE recommends Mexico intensify its efforts in the following directions:

  1. Disseminate environmental information (periodic reports of the state of environment and environmental indicators);
  2. Develop and use indicators to measure environmental performance.
  3. Development of INE Environmental Indicators

In the aforementioned context, the INE has developed a environmental indicator system using the Pressure-State-Response (PSR) approach. This approach was modified to meet the restrictions of information availability in Mexico.

The INE environmental indicators were developed for the following media; air quality, solid and hazardous waste, biodiversity, global climate change and ozone depletion. In 1998, the INE will include water quality, chemical substance and risk as additional indicator categories. At the same time, the SEMARNAP will develop energy and transportation indicators related to the environment.

In the beginning, several difficulties were encountered with the availability and quality of the information. Another problem was presented from a surplus of information from different institutions. In addition, no formal mechanisms existed to exchange this information among the institutions nor examine information conflicts. Furthermore, the economic crisis of 1994 shifted budget priorities which had residual affects on environmental information gathering, for example at the state level.

The INE's environmental indicator program has the following main goals:

  1. To provide a tool for policymakers during the planning and evaluation stages;
  2. To evaluate the environmental policy performance; and
  3. To promote increased public access to environmental information.

The first results of this program have been presented in the INE's World Wide WebPages and the publication entitled 1997 Report on the Development of Environmental Performance Indicator in Mexico.

These are the first steps in developing the Environmental Indicator System, which basic objectives are:

  1. To present validated environmental information;
  2. To create an information access system whereby the information can be constantly updated;
  3. To encourage the participation of state governments, research institutions, manufacturing sectors and the general public in the development of the indicators; and

The following graph illustrates the public's increasing use of the INE's Environmental Indicator System via the internet.

1997 Access to Mexico's Environmental Indicator Webpage

(Number of hits to

3. The CSD Indicator Set and the INE's Environmental Indicators

The OECD proposes a set of environmental indicators for environmental evaluation performance. At the same time, the CSD proposed a set of indicators for sustainable development. In spite of the different information characteristics between Mexico and other countries, Mexico has included most of indicators proposed in the list of sustainable development indicators (United Nations, 1996) in its environmental indicator report. The following list shows a comparison between both indicator lists and includes concept's citation

Indicators of Sustainable (UN) Conservation of biological diversity
Threatened species as a percent of total native species Number and status of endemic species in Mexico (5.2.3)
Protected areas as a percent of total area Percentage of extension of national reserves (5.3.3)
Protection of the atmosphere
Emissions of greenhouse gasses Inventory report of greenhouse gas emissions (7.1.2)
Emissions of sulfur oxides Emissions inventories in main cities (2.1)
Emissions of nitrogen oxides Emissions inventories in main cities (2.1)
Consumption of ozone depleting substance Consumption of ozone depleting substance(6.3.1)
Ambient concentrations of pollutants in urban areas Pollution concentration and violations of Mexican standards (2.2)
Expenditure on air pollution abatement  
Environmentally sound management of solid waste and sewage-related issues
Generation of industrial and municipal solid waste Generation of solid waste nationwide (4.1.1)
Household waste disposed per capita Per capita solid waste generation (4.1.1)
Expenditure on waste management  
Waste recycling and reuse Recycling (4.3.3)
Municipal waste disposal Generated waste relative to proper managed waste (4.2.1)
Environmentally sound management of toxic chemical
This issues will be considered in 1998
Environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes
Generation of hazardous waste Hazardous waste generation (3.1.1)
Import and Export of hazardous wastes Regulation of hazardous waste transborder shipments (3.3.2)
Area of land contaminated by hazardous wastes Areas affected by improper hazardous waste disposal (3.2.4)
Expenditure of hazardous waste treatment  

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Luz Maria Gonzalez
Deputy Director of Environmental Indicators
National Institute of Ecology
Mexico City, Mexico
Tel. no.: (52-5) 624-3454/55
Fax no.: (52-5) 624-3584

Mr. Roberto Lopez Perez
Deputy Director of Environmental Statistics
National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics
Hero de Nacozari 2301, puerta 11, primer nivel
Aguascalientes, Mexico
Tel. no.: (52-49) 181-169
Fax no.: (52-49) 182-650