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Water and gold

Water and gold

By Miguel Bonasso

Glaciers are not simply a tourist attraction, a sumptuous setting for fashion shows. Preventing them from being destroyed or contaminated is a matter of life and death.


Glaciers are not simply a tourist attraction, a sumptuous setting for fashion shows. Preventing them from being destroyed or contaminated is a matter of life and death.

The popular saying states: "We can live without gold, not without water." However, there are those who still consider, like King Midas, that gold is the measure of all things on Earth, even if the Earth perishes.

For this reason, the debate on the glacier protection law that was vetoed days ago by the Executive Power must be taken up by the legislators who unanimously voted on this norm and by society as a whole, which may see its vital interests affected if the Presidential rejection is imposed.

We are facing one of those capital decisions that fly over the partial interests, the party discipline that requires due obedience or the chicanes between the ruling party and the opposition. We are facing a decision of the State. The State understood as an institutional synthesis of the current and future needs of society and not as a circumstantial expression of this or that government.

A brief summary so that the reader understands what we are talking about.

On November 13, 2007, in the Committee on Natural Resources and Human Environment of the Chamber of Deputies that I chair, we unanimously approved a bill by the deputy (mandate fulfilled) Marta Maffei on "minimum budgets for the protection of glaciers and the periglacial environment ". The rule was intended to preserve glaciers and their surrounding areas covered with ice (permafrost), to maintain them as strategic reserves of water resources and providers of recharge water for hydrographic basins that come from the Andes mountain range to the Atlantic Ocean. It also proposed the creation of an inventory of glaciers and periglacial geoforms throughout the national territory. And, as is logical, it prohibited the mining or oil exploitation on the glaciers and their icy surroundings.

The project of the then ARI deputy had the scientific advice of the Argentine Institute of Nivology, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (Ianiglia), through its own director, Dr. Ricardo Villalba.

The Commission's opinion was raised to the plenary session without dissent or observations and was unanimously approved in the hall on November 22, 2007. I repeat: it had no negative votes. There were only two abstentions, that of Carlos Snopek from Jujuy and Susana Amanda Genem from Mendoza. It was voted by the deputies of the "cordilleran provinces" who were present. Including San Juan and San Juan Margarita Ferrá de Bartol, Juan Carlos Gioja, Ruperto Eduardo Godoy and José Rubén Uñac.

On October 22 of this year, it was also approved in general unanimously in the Senate. Only senators Adolfo Rodríguez Saá (San Luis), Liliana Teresa Negre de Alonso (San Luis) and Roberto Gustavo Basualdo (San Juan) filed formal objections to the fifth article.

Before the vote, Daniel Filmus, head of the Natural Resources Commission of the Upper House, gave an eloquent speech. He said, among other things: "We are talking about one of the most important issues that Argentina may have in the future. An issue that did not have specific legislation and that is fundamental and decisive, because we refer mainly to the water reserves of our country". With the half sanction of the Senate, the bill became law 26,418. The only thing missing was for the Executive Power to enact it. But he vetoed it by presidential decree 1837/08, which bears the signatures of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the Chief of Staff, Sergio Massa.

The arguments for the rejection of the law are weak and according to the text itself, they are based on concerns of the Ministry of Mining and "governors of the mountain range." The Secretary of Mining is Jorge Mayoral from San Juan, related to mining interests, and the Governor of San Juan, José Luis Gioja, also publicly identified for his links with the Canadian company Barrick Gold, which was rejected by the public protest in Esquel and Now he is the head of the 2.4 billion dollar Pascua-Lama binational project (between Chile and Argentina), coincidentally in a glacier zone.


According to the Ministry of Mining, which depends on the Ministry of Planning, in charge of the architect Julio De Vido, "the establishment of minimum budgets cannot be limited to the absolute prohibition of activities." The law does not "absolutely" prohibit any type of activity but those that are carried out directly on the glaciers, destroying or polluting them. But, in addition, what authority does this Secretary of State have to comment on environmental law and not that of the branch, which is that of the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Nation, in charge of Romina Picolotti, absent in the mentions of the decree?

The observation of the Executive Branch also argues that the General Environmental Law (25,675) provides for "the environmental evaluation system prior to the authorization of any work or activity likely to degrade the environment" and that, therefore, "the prohibition contained in article 6 of the sanctioned bill is excessive ". The decree ignores that the environmental impact reports submitted by Barrick Gold in Chile and Argentina omitted the existence of glaciers in its area of ​​operation.

The core of the veto appears clear in this negative definition of the law, considering that "it would give prominence to environmental aspects over activities that could be authorized and carried out in perfect care for the environment." That is precisely what it is about giving preeminence to environmental law, enshrined in article 41 of the Constitution, over any other activity that may harm it.

Finally, Article 3 of the decree proposes: "The Governors, National Senators and National Deputies of the Andean provinces are invited to constitute an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of the measures to be adopted in order to protect the glaciers and the periglacial environment ".

Obviously, no forum can substitute for the National Congress. Therefore, deputies and senators must insist on the original law so that the veto falls. It takes two thirds of the votes, it is true, but it is also true that the law was voted unanimously. Let each one take charge of what they voted for.

No to the Mine, Nov. 2008


Video: Isaac Chambers - Water u0026 Gold (July 2021).