Friday, September 22, 2023

Trump’s wall on the border with Mexico caused environmental and cultural damage

The wall built under the administration of former US President Donald Trump (2017-2021) along the border with Mexico caused damage to tribal areas and also had negative impacts on the environment, the Government Oversight Office (GAO) concluded on Thursday.

This bipartisan surveillance agency recalled in its report that the Ministries of Homeland Security and Defense, together with Customs, erected about 458 miles (about 737 kilometers) of barriers between January 2017 and January 2021.

81% of the new structure replaced existing barriers but opted for a narrower design to prevent pedestrian crossings as much as possible. Until then, half of the wall erected served to block the passage of people and the other half to prevent the passage of vehicles, with more space between the posts.

GAO pointed out that the barrier erected between 2017 and 2021 to minimize administrative burdens — 62% of them on federally administered land — caused damage to cultural sites and water resources, and also harmed endangered species.

Members of the Tohono O’odham tribe, for example, stated that there was partial damage to Monument Hill, a site traditionally used for religious ceremonies by other tribes and the Hia-C’ed O’odham, ancestors of the Tohono O’odham.

The barrier also caused disturbances in the flow of natural water. According to the study, there is a correlation between the reduction in water pressure and the water consumption for the construction of the plant.

The new, narrower barrier was added, also affecting wildlife in the area. Although some parts had openings at the base for small animals to pass through, these were not wide enough for larger animals such as wolves to pass through.

The clearing of land for the construction of the barrier damaged native vegetation and caused erosion in some mountainous areas.

GAO stressed that while the Department of Homeland Security had warned of the potential impact, federal officials and other interested parties claimed they had not received adequate information regarding the matter and that federal environmental and other laws were not respected to expedite progress.

When the Joe Biden administration halted construction of the wall after taking office in January 2021, terminating contracts exacerbated some of the problems by leaving projects as they were.

GAO requested that a strategy be implemented to mitigate the cultural damage caused, and that the cost and time required for implementation be identified. He also called for an assessment of the risk posed to the local population by incomplete construction works.

Her recommendations include identifying and managing the long-term impacts of impacts on cultural and natural resources, and advising local tribes on any actions that affect these communities.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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