The contamination of the environment is a problem which affects the entire planet. There isn’t a country across the world which isn’t affected in some way by environmental issues and/or contamination of some kind. Argentina hasn’t been miraculously saved from the fate of the rest of the world. It also suffers from the consequences of climate change.
All the environmental issues that our planet is suffering from have been caused by a very poor understanding of what is meant by the term “progress”. When countries and their respective governments talk about progress, what they refer to is an increase in economy, larger numbers, higher incomes, and more money in the bank. The growth of progress of a country in the 21st century is measured by financial gain, not by the wealth of natural resources and indigenous species that it looks after.
Argentina is suffering from an ever-array of environmental problems which are constantly on the increase. Amongst the many problems cited, high levels of pollution, dangerous levels of deforestation, and fresh water contamination are just the beginning. The development or progress of any country should also be measured by focusing on what that country protects and what it doesn’t allowed to be destroyed.
Taking this final statement as the basis for what progress should really refer to, things are not looking so good for Argentina right now.
The number of vehicles registered in the Mendoza province has increased by a whopping 50 percent over the last five years. The disastrous effects this has had on the levels of pollution across the province are worryingly clear. One of the main reasons behind the recent increase in private vehicles on the road stems from a lack of consistent public transport services. It’s important to note that around 60 percent of all cars which enter the city of Mendoza on a daily basis only carry one person — the driver — inside. If public transport services were better, the number of cars on the roads would reduce and the levels of pollution would reduce as a result.
Mendoza is also guilty of being one of Argentina’s major culprits for the generation of tons and tons of rubbish. It’s one of the highest rubbish producing cities across the country — another factor taking its toll on the environment.
It’s important to say that Mendoza is home to one of Argentina’s largest rubbish collection plans — indeed, the city of Mendoza can lay claim to owning the best rubbish collection plan within the province. However, there’s little comfort to be had from this fact, because the rubbish is merely collected and then burned. There are little incentives to recycle and no programs which exist to teach the local communities about how to do their part in taking care of world.
Just a few weeks ago, the Municipality of Córdoba declared an environmental and sanitary emergency across the area. Contaminated water from the Bajo Grande Plant — located close to the town of the same name, alongside the Suquía River — in charge of purifying the province’s water sources, had been leaked from the plant into the Suquía River. The contaminated water contained traces of faeces without chlorine.
More worryingly, the poor efforts of the plant to protect neighbouring communities and the natural environment from contaminated liquids was first brought to the attention of Argentine authorities way back in June 2010, by the Centre of Human Rights & Environment (CEDHA). It’s taken more than three years for the report to be heard and for a warning to be sent out to the local communities.
The small Argentine community, Villa Las Rosas — located at just 20 kilometres from Villa Dolores — played host to another scandal of a different nature in June 2014. Locals reported that a nearby petrol garage was responsible for the appearance of large quantities of petrol found in the local water wells — used by the community as its main source of clean, fresh water. It was discovered that the petrol from the garage had been escaping through the petrol hoses and into the ground, contaminating the water tables over a long period of time.
2011 marked the beginning of an already delicate environmental situation in the city of Rosario. 2011 was the year in which Rosaria played host to the first ever Latin American Congress for Socio-Environmental Health. Ironically, the report which came out of that particular congress revealed that Rosario was one of the most contaminated cities across Argentina — mainly because of the large quantity of industrial buildings, the extensive use of agricultural pesticides for cultivation purposes, a lack of chlorine in the purification of water sources, and a large percentage of the population living without basic living needs covered.
The Municipality of Rosario, together with the United Nations, UNICEF, the International Labour Organisation (OIT), the Pan American Health Organisation (OPS), and Argentina’s National Ombudsman Office, built a network of underground water tables across all Argentine provinces as a way of measuring future environmental risks which might pose dangers to human health — particularly to children’s health, which is usually the first and most to suffer.
Since 2010, the city of Rosario has also been working with social organisations and syndicates to create effective mitigation projects. Other plans which encourage local communities to take on regulatory roles on the streets and report examples of malpractice against the environment are also in place. The objective here is to generate a higher community consciousness of the situation and to empower local people with the information and resources they need to effectively monitor what’s going on around them.
Greenpeace has recently reported illegal acts of deforestation across regions of high environmental value in Salta. In particular, reports have been filed against La Moraleja Farm for the destruction of more than 1300 hectares of Argentine forest in just two months. Reports have been filed against the same farm for other acts of illegal deforestation in 2004, 2006, and 2007. Unfortunately, the farm owners have never been sanctioned and their destructive behaviour continues.
The farm is located very close to the Pizarro Natural Reserve. Ironically, but in no way humourous, according to Argentine Forest Law, La Moraleja Farm is categorised as “red,” which means it’s situated in the middle of an area of great biodiversity. Argentine Forest Law should be protecting this area more so for its classification. The fact that the actions of this farm have not yet been sanctioned is incredibly worrying.
Environmental issues and efforts to minimise negative impacts — What do Argentines think?
La Fundación Vida Silvestre teamed up with Poliarquía Consultores to bring about one of the first environmentally-focused surveys in Argentina, gathering information and opinions from people living in all provinces across the country.
The results from this survey were very clear. A strong 63 percent of all Argentines which took part in the survey believe that environmental issues which affect the country have worsened over the last five years. A worrying 84 percent of all Argentines who collaborated believe that Argentina is exploiting its natural resources without thinking about future repercussions.
Interestingly, out of all information gathered from the surveys findings, it seems that Argentines believe there are five major environmental issues which the country most suffers from and most desperately needs to resolve. These five issues are:
–> Climate change (21 percent)
–> Water contamination (15 percent)
–> Rubbish levels and a lack of recycling projects (12 percent)
–> Deforestation (11 percent)
–> Extinction of flora and fauna (less than 1 percent)
In fact, it’s definitely worth stating that the General Auditing Office in Argentina issued a press release just two weeks ago stating that the Argentine Forest Law is almost never enforced under any circumstances. It said that the respective Argentine authorities had an obligation to ensure that policies and laws were not only in place theoretically, but also enforced in practice.
What can you do to help eradicate Argentina’s environmental problems?
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