By Dra. Virginia M. Chiesa, Lic. Mgter. E. Rivas
Throughout this text, we propose to address the problem of freshwater scarcity in order to identify an agenda of common interests related to its exploitation, distribution and conservation, both for our supply and for future generations.
Currently, the United Nations Organization estimates that a quarter of the world's population lacks safe drinking water and this proportion will double in twenty years, under this horizon we highlight that of the total water resources of our planet, fresh water only represents 3%. According to the World Water Council, with the current rate of public and private water investments, access to this resource cannot be guaranteed until 2050 in Africa, 2025 in Asia and 2040 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In general, we understand the aforementioned crisis as the result of the growing demographic increase, pollution, the irrational use of water and the privatization of the exploitation of our water resources, since as we have observed, our recent privatization model does not allow us to it has guaranteed universal access to water, nor good quality, much less adequate rates.
As noted, fresh water is one of the most precious non-renewable natural resources, therefore agriculture, livestock, health and nutrition of people, ecosystems, industry, and energy depend on its adequate supply and management. , the maintenance of peace and social stability. In this sense, the American analyst Hughes Butts maintains that: "no country can be economically or socially stable without a safe water supply."
In this regard, it is important to establish the concept of "water" that is debated in global conflicts, since it is postulated through two antagonistic assumptions: "a social good linked to the right to life versus a profit merchandise" .
By virtue of the projection described, we observe conflicting interests. On the one hand, private companies pursue profit as their sole goal and, on the other, consumers aim to preserve this finite and vital resource.
Under this approach, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the nations of the North need the natural resources of the South to continue their expansion processes motivated by the accumulation of wealth and in the current international strategic scenario, it is advised that whoever manages to control water sweet, it will dominate the world economy and life in the not too distant future.
Having made this introduction, we must emphasize that "our Guaraní Aquifer" is one of the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and has the capacity to supply the world population for approximately two hundred years. This basin rests in the subsoil of the territories of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, signatory countries of the Treaty of Asunción of March 26, 1991 that gave rise to the birth of MERCOSUR and is housed in ancient geological formations that have between 200 and 132 millions of years, a time when even Africa and South America were united.
Although the environmental issue was a concern for the States parties from the very origin of MERCOSUR, the matter of groundwater and the Guaraní Aquifer in particular had to wait a few years to see the light.
It was more than eleven years after the first reference on the aforementioned subject that the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer became a subject of reference by the Presidents of MERCOSUR in their Presidential Declarations, which are the basic guidelines that they draw for the future future of the regional integration process. Thus, on August 15, 2003, on the occasion of the presidential replacement in the Republic of Paraguay with the assumption of the first magistracy of the aforementioned country of Nicanor Duarte Frutos, the Presidents of MERCOSUR took account of the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer although with a vague reference in the last point of the Declaration that they signed.
From this extraordinary meeting held in Paraguay, the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer began to take on greater relevance, fundamentally due to the impulse of the Uruguayan Government that presented the “Bases for an Agreement of the States Parties of MERCOSUR regarding the Guaraní Aquifer”, through Of which it sought to implement in the Project for the Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development of the Guaraní Aquifer System in order to guarantee its preservation and the responsible use of its resources. In this sense, through Decision MERCOSUR / CMC / DEC. 04/23 A High Level Ad Hoc Group was created in order to develop a Project on the Guaraní Aquifer that would carry out its task during the second semester of 2004.
Despite the fact that during 2004 the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer occupied the agenda of the MERCOSUR Presidents, the issue gradually began to lose prominence, without even achieving the results proposed on the occasion of the aforementioned extraordinary meeting in Asunción del Paraguay. In this sense, the last reference, as far as Presidential Communiqués are concerned, is in the one drawn up after the XXIX Presidential Summit of December 2005 in Montevideo, where the Presidents “took note of the status of the negotiations of the draft Agreement on the Guaraní Aquifer, which establishes principles and criteria that guarantee the permanent and unquestionable sovereignty of the four States Parties over this important transboundary water resource, ensuring its rational and sustainable use. They also highlighted the importance of expanding technical and scientific knowledge about the Guaraní Aquifer System ”.
Now, while this was happening at the Presidential Summits, the MERCOSUR member states signed an Agreement for the achievement of the "Project for the Environmental Protection and Integrated Sustainable Development of the Guaraní Aquifer System (SAG)", of which Argentina, Brazil, took part. Paraguay, Uruguay. The aforementioned Agreement is financed by the World Bank and its executing unit is the Organization of American States.
This Agreement, of which the MERCOSUR member states took part, is developed outside the integration process, which up to now limits its action on the subject to political statements but not in-depth work on how to convey these statements into concrete facts that guarantee , as indicated by the "Project for the Environmental Protection and Integrated Sustainable Development of the Guaraní Aquifer System (SAG)", that "The Guaraní Aquifer System will be preserved from contamination and managed on the basis of criteria of rational, equitable and sustainable use, having take into account the particular characteristics of the resource and the pertinent factors ”.
For this, it is necessary to advance in a joint management of the resource by an organism created within MERCOSUR and not outside it, which manages and protects the Aquifer in a global way. Without attempting to transpolate historical experiences, the example of the CECA (European Coal and Steel Community) may be useful to design an Aquifer Management model, given that there are many common themes that both situations have, either due to the nature of transnational of the resource or because it is a fundamental natural resource for its holders. However, despite these overlapping issues, there are two central elements that give a particularity to the case we are analyzing, firstly the natural resource in question, since water is extremely more important in the future than coal and The steel represented in the middle of the last century and, together with this, the relationship between the States that share the natural resource, given that those who share the Guaraní Aquifer have been without war conflicts among themselves for more than 100 years.
Given the “rare” coincidence between the disappearance of the Guaraní Aquifer issue from the public political sphere and the technicalization of its study, financed mainly by the World Bank, we understand that it is extremely important as citizens to try to shed light on the issue, so that the "future of all" can be decided "together".
Based on what has been stated so far, the adoption of Mercosur standards that establish clear rules of the game regarding the sustainable exploitation of surface and underground waters becomes urgent, the referred legislation must contemplate the active legitimation of future generations, social control and citizen participation, which are fundamental tools for the preservation and maintenance of said resource.
In order to carry out this work, we consider necessary a radical change of attitude on the part of citizens, leaving it in charge of each State to guide the sanitary user to ensure a better use of water, reducing waste, increasing the commitment of the community with the environment and through education, stimulate a universal awareness about the dangers that threaten us, since from the data analyzed it is clear that fresh water constitutes a scarce means of survival.
In this sense, we consider it convenient for the Mercosur States to adhere to the Aarhus Convention of Denmark of 1998, on access to information, public participation in decision-making processes and access to justice in environmental problems to guarantee in this way a greater involvement of citizens in issues related to the environment.
Finally and by way of reflection on this problem of general interest, we believe it appropriate to cite the following poetry by the beloved Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti, with the hope that it continues to be a poetry and does not become a prophecy:
They say that water will be essential
much more necessary than oil
the empires of always therefore
they will steal our water in gush
wedding gifts will be the taps
water will give the poetry awards
the nobel will provide a cataract
and the rains will be listed on the stock market
retirees will collect leaks
the millionaires owners of the flood
they will sell tears wholesale
a capital will be measured by liters
each company will have its whirlpool
its lagoon forbidden to outsiders
your museum of prestigious iodos
your postcards of snow and dew
and we thirsty pale ones
with a dry tongue we will toast
with the water on the rocks.
one . Lawyer (UNR) - Rep. Argentina. Student of the "Master in Human Environmental Systems", Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (U.N.R.). Assigned to the subject "Agrarian and Environmental Law", Chair "B" (U.N.R) - (studying 2nd year). Participant of the "Agribusiness Interest Group" of the Faculty of Business Sciences of the Austral University of Rosario. Author of the book: “MERCOSUR: A new challenge for humanity. The water crisis ”UNR Editora, foreword: Dr. Luis Orlando Andorno and other articles on water resources.
2 . Graduate in Political Science (UBA) - Rep. Argentina and Master in European Union Studies (UdC) - Spain. Corresponding researcher in Argentina of the research team «Intégrations dans les Amériques Latines» of the Center de Recherche et de Documentation sur l'Amérique Latine (CREDAL) and the Institut des Hautes Études de l'Amérique Latine (IHEAL) - Université de Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle. ". Author of publications on regional integration in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc.
3 . In the Declaration signed by the Presidents of the MERCOSUR member states on the occasion of the celebration of the First Presidential Summit, on December 17, 1991 in the city of Brasilia, it is stated in point 9 “9.- The Presidents highlighted the It is advisable for the four Republics to arrive at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, in June 1992, with identical positions of principle and the same proposals, including regarding the common legislative treatment of infractions and crimes against the environment, recommending, for this, the efforts of its competent bodies ".
Four . Point 10 of the signed Declaration only stated that “10. The MERCOSUR Presidents took note with interest of Uruguay's initiative regarding the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer, in the sense of presenting the bases for an instrument that addresses this issue ”.
5 . Some references on the subject can be found in the Presidential Declaration signed in Puerto Iguazú on July 8, 2004, after the closing of the XXVI Summit of MERCOSUR Presidents, where at point 28 it is stated that the Presidents “agreed on the importance of adopt commitments at the MERCOSUR level in relation to the Guaraní Aquifer and, in this context, expressed their support for the creation of a High Level Ad Hoc Group, in which the States Parties will debate the basic principles and guidelines that guarantee their rights over the resources. of the Aquifer, as well as the policies and measures that promote the environmental protection of the Aquifer and sustainable development, with a view to the eventual signing of an agreement on the matter ”; in the Presidential Declaration of December of the same year, after the XXVII Presidential Summit held in Ouro Preto on the occasion of celebrating the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Ouro Preto protocol. On that occasion, and in reference to the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer, the Presidents “reaffirmed that the water resources of the Guaraní Aquifer are part of the sovereign territorial domain of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and decided to convene a Conference of the States Parties to conclude the negotiation of an agreement on the Guaraní Aquifer, based on the project prepared by the High Level Ad Hoc Group, which met in the second half of 2004 ”.
And finally, as a corollary of the XXVIII MERCOSUR Presidential Summit, held between June 18 and 20, 2005 in the city of Asunción, Paraguay, the Presidents of the region “highlighted the important progress achieved within the framework of the“ Grupo Ad High Level Hoc of the Guaraní Aquifer ”for the elaboration of the“ Draft Agreement on the Guaraní Aquifer ”, whose purpose is to reaffirm the sovereignty of the States Parties over the referred Aquifer, the defense of this extraordinary heritage to avoid its contamination and determine the use of this transboundary natural resource. They expressed their wishes that the Conference convened by the CMC conclude the Agreement, and agreed to make the maximum possible efforts to support the work of the Conference and propose formulas to resolve the pending issues ”.