Pollution of the Uruguay River. No solutions in sight

Pollution of the Uruguay River. No solutions in sight

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By Víctor L. Bacchetta

Since the ruling of the International Court of The Hague on the litigation between Uruguay and Argentina over the installation of the Botnia pulp mill in Fray Bentos, on April 20, 2010, 14 water samples have already been taken, but the Governments of both countries do not agree on the regulations that must be applied in the analyzes and, therefore, on how to ensure that the Uruguay River is not contaminated.

On July 28, 2010, the leaders of Argentina and Uruguay agreed to install a Binational Scientific Committee to carry out "joint monitoring of the plant" and the establishments and urban centers that discharge their effluents into the Uruguay River. In August 2010, an agreement was signed between Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and José Mujica to carry out this control, but the populations on both sides never received the results of the analyzes.

The International Court recommended that both countries not aggravate the dispute and that all resolutions related to it be taken within the Administrative Commission of the Uruguay River (CARU), which is the body responsible for compliance with the Uruguay River Treaty, and not unilaterally. However, some inconsistent decisions by the Uruguayan government have generated new disagreements that hinder the process.

Added to the above are some irregularities found in the visits of the Scientific Committee to the UPM plant to collect the samples and, aggravating the situation, doubts have arisen about the seriousness of the analyzes. The river water samples had to be sent to two accredited laboratories in Canada, several batches have already been returned, but the Scientific Committee has detected inconsistencies in the analyzes of one of the laboratories.

Unconsulted changes

The first visit of the Scientific Committee to the UPM plant, in October 2010, found that the effluents were diluted with water from the Uruguay River before discharge, something strictly prohibited by Uruguayan regulations. UPM interrupted the dilution, but on April 29, 2011, two days before the second visit of the Scientific Committee, the Uruguayan government informed CARU that it had decided to change its regulations in this regard.

By a resolution of the Ministry of Housing, Land Management and Environment (MVOTMA), UPM was allowed to dump its effluents with a higher temperature: from 30 to 37 degrees Celsius. The Digest on the Use and Exploitation of the Uruguay River, the norm by which CARU is governed, establishes that the effluents must not exceed the "natural conditions" of the river, of 9 degrees in winter and 20 degrees in summer, on average.

The Argentine delegation at CARU questioned the decision because it did not take into account the Statute of the Uruguay River, nor the international norm cited and the Uruguayan norm itself, nor the ruling of the Court of The Hague, nor the agreements of two presidential meetings and the meetings of foreign ministers of both countries. Argentina also considered that Uruguay cannot unilaterally modify a substantive aspect of the UPM operation.

Another modification of the operation of UPM without passing it through CARU is the increase in the production of the plant, enabled by one million tons of pulp per year, which has been exceeded since 2009, with the consequent increase in its impacts.

As of this moment, the lack of agreement between the parties on which are the applicable standards to determine whether or not UPM overturns comply or not with the maximums allowed by the standards recognized by CARU, has determined that the Committee is impeded to generate a complete report on the results of the analyzes and measurements performed. To date, no possibilities are in sight to overcome this divergence.

Meanwhile, the Uruguayan press prone to sharpen any controversy with the neighboring country has repeatedly accused Argentina of refusing to provide that information and attributes it to the intention of hiding that the contamination comes from the Gualeguaychú River. It is probable that there is also an important contribution in that sense from the other bank of the river, but these types of arguments do not shed light but justify the darkness.

Faults and transgressions

On November 18, 2011, an accident occurred at the UPM facilities due to the abnormal operation of the recovery boiler and the diluted odorous gas boiler, which affected some neighborhoods in Fray Bentos. There would have been a significant emission of sulfur dioxide and dust with values ​​about 25 times higher than normal, while the effluent to the Uruguay River in those days would have reached 35ºC.

The Argentine delegation to CARU considered that the report prepared by the National Directorate for the Environment (Dinama) on this episode was completely insufficient and claimed that the Uruguayan counterpart, based on the ruling of The Hague and subsequent agreements between the governments, present exhaustive information on what happened.

At the same time, during the visit to the UPM plant on November 28, 2011, members of the Scientific Committee and Dinama staff found that 170 liters were being clandestinely dumped in rainwater pool No. 4 on the plant property. per second of effluents to the Uruguay River, without any type of previous treatment. It was also verified that solids in dimensions greater than those allowed were discharged through a gutter.

These facts, verified by the Binational Scientific Committee and by the Uruguayan environmental authority, constituted flagrant violations by UPM of the required standards and the applicable regulations to authorize this industrial activity. The Argentine delegation to CARU demanded the elimination of the clandestine landfill and requested information on the measures taken by Dinama to guarantee the non-repetition of similar violations.

Added to the above were doubts about the Canadian AGAT laboratory, to which most of the samples taken in UPM and the Gualeguaychú River between June and November 2011 were sent. The Scientific Committee considered that the AGAT laboratory should ratify or rectify the results of their reports and if they did not give a satisfactory answer, they suggested that CARU evaluate the possibility of using another Canadian laboratory.

In this context, everything seems to lead to aggravating the binational conflict, rather than overcoming it. In fact, the only effective measure taken so far to reduce tension would have been the lifting of the road block in Arroyo Verde. But the patience of the Gualeguaychú assembly members, who also accuse their government of inaction, is running out.

Victor L. Bacchetta - Uruguay

Video: Learn about Pollution. Environment Defilement. Cartoon (June 2022).


  1. Stefn

    the Excellent answer

  2. Josu

    It's not a pity to print such a post, you rarely find this on the internet, thanks!

  3. Gariland

    I remember someone posted pictures ...

  4. Zutaxe

    In my opinion, this - confusion.

  5. Louvel

    Also that we would do without your very good phrase

  6. Willy

    The highest number of points is achieved.Great idea, I agree with you.

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