Ivanna Ortega, 12, has made it her mission to clean up the Madín dam, located in hometown in Mexico, Atizapan in the municipality of Zaragoza, just a few kilometers away from Mexico City. The dam was suffering from a lily infestation and the discharge of sewage and waste by construction companies in the area. Once Ortega realized action was needed, she organized a petition on Change.org to ask authorities to do something to save the dam.
“The dam has always been an important part of the place where I live, when I passed by and saw it full of lily pads I felt sadness, anger and despair to do something about it,” said the young activist.
Water lilies are a plant that grows very quickly and can become a pest that restricts water movement, contributes to siltation and decreases the economic utility, recreational and environmental values of water bodies. That combined with waste and sewage can lead to environmental disaster.
Ortega mobilized ordinary citizens, non-governmental organizations and government authorities, and her petition is still gaining signatures. Her activism gained her a nomination for the 2020 International Children’s Peace Prize who have previously awarded other noteworthy child activists like Greta Thunberg, who Ortega is a fan of.
Due to the awareness Ortega raised by collecting the signatures, the government decided to allocate 21 million pesos (around $1 million USD) into cleaning the dam.
“We depend on the environment to live. Without the environment, we wouldn’t be here.”