Now 20, A Joint U.S.-Mexico Project To Develop Poor Border Communities Grows Up

North American Development Bank

 (North American Development Bank)

Now 20 years old, a joint U.S.-Mexico governmental project that funds infrastructure projects in poor border communities is all grown up.

The North American Development Bank, commonly known as NADBANK, is making a concerted effort to expand loans from wastewater treatment and potable water projects to alternative energy -- wind, solar and other renewable energy ventures.

The move includes an $811 million investment into a number of solar, wind and biodiesel projects.

Created in the wake of the milestone-setting North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, to help develop environmentally and financially sustainable projects along the U.S.-Mexico border, NADBANK has worked with communities on the Mexican side of the border to make sure that currently an estimated 87 percent of wastewater gets treated before being discharged back into rivers and streams – up from an estimated 21 percent in 1994.

“Our actions have helped enable communities on both sides of the border to implement more infrastructure projects,” Geronimo Gutiérrez, the managing director of NADBANK and a former Mexican cabinet member, told Fox News Latino. “We’ve been very successful in making sure that the water is clean before it leaves the treatment facilities.”

Gutierrez spoke by phone from San Antonio, Texas, where NAFTA was signed and also current headquarters for NADBANK.

While the rise in clean water is certainly appreciated on both sides, some Mexicans still a vast disparity between the water that flows in the U.S. and that in their country.

“The smell was terrible. You couldn’t stand it,” Amanda Pérez, one of two commissioners in the border town of Río Bravo told the Texas Tribune. “I don’t have words to explain it. … I did not believe it was that bad,” said Perez, whose town sits across from Rio Grande City, Texas.

In an effort to appease concerns of border residents, both NADBANK and border officials in charge of water have promised to continue developing wastewater treatment facilities and have highlighted the major funding going into water processing -- $846 million in water and wasterwater systems and millions more to water conservation, storm water and other infrastructure programs.

“The North American Development Bank has played a critical role in improving environmental infrastructure along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Edward Drusina, the U.S. Commissioner for the International Boundary and Water Commission in a press release.

“I see firsthand how investment in water and wastewater infrastructure has improved the quality of life on both sides of the border," Drusina said.

Gutiérrez and other officials at NADBANK admit that there is still work to be done in regards to water processing along the U.S.-Mexico border, but he added that some of the other projects they funded – road paving, landfill, improving border crossings – will have just as positive effects on the lives of border residents as the water treatment.

Road paving and improving traffic flow through border posts will both reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and cut down on the harmful dust kicked up along the road, Gutiérrez said.

“All these projects are meant to aid in the flow of traffic along the border,” he added. “Because when trucks sit idling for hours in line to cross the border you can’t believe the environmental harm that causes.”

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

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