With the exception of the Air and Water Conservation Law of 1940, few regulations exist pertaining to the appropriate use of natural resources. Mexico's population doubles from the mid-30s to 1960 and puts increasing strain on these resources. Rapid industrial expansion contributes to environmental degradation.
Massive urban migration and unplanned shantytowns overload urban infrastructure systems. Along the U.S. border, the proliferation of maquiladoras (assembly plants) adds to environmental stress with undisciplined and illegal disposal of waste materials and sprawling development. The government creates the Undersecretary's Office for the Improvement of the Environment.
Pollution becomes a serious concern along the border as electronics, chemical, and furniture industries move into the area, discharging large volumes of industrial solvents. Mexico City's air quality is among the worst in the world. Resources for environmental monitoring and cleanup are stretched even thinner in the aftermath of a major earthquake in 1985.
Mexico faces extensive environmental deterioration, especially in the areas of deforestation, soil erosion, overfishing, and contamination. Presidents Bush and Salinas launch the Integrated Border Environmental Plan in conjunction with their NAFTA negotiations. Salinas creates the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries, and puts into place a polluter-payment system.
Environmental concerns finally make their way into the national agenda. The National Development Plan of 1995-2000 puts reaching sustainable development on near-equal footing with maintaining economic growth.
President Vicente Fox promises to enact legislation to combat pollution and bridge the gap between Mexico's environmental standards and those of the United States. Mexico City plans a 10-year program to improve air quality by means of public transportation, emissions standards, and faster, less congested roads. Mexico's deforestation rate is ranked the world's second worst, after Brazil.
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