Guaraní Aquifer: Mercosur strategic resource

Guaraní Aquifer: Mercosur strategic resource

By Virginia María Chiesa

Globally, our use of fresh water is increasing. The 6.5 billion inhabitants have already taken over the 54% available in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers, but if per capita consumption continues to grow at the current rate, within 25 years man could use more than 90% of fresh water available, leaving only 10% for the rest of the species.

Introduction to the global shortage of fresh water

Currently the United Nations estimates that a quarter of the world's population lives with a shortage of safe drinking water and this proportion will double within twenty years. 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 the environment depend on its adequate supply and management. energy, the maintenance of peace and social stability.

In this regard, it is important to establish the concept of water that is still debated in global conflicts, since it is postulated through two antagonistic assumptions: “a social good linked to the right to life, which constitutes an essential element of public health cannot be commercialized, versus a profit merchandise, whose exploitation and access is governed by the laws of the market ”.

In fact, I could say that fresh water represents a scarce means of survival, and this is manifested when this resource begins to be lacking on the Blue Planet. The facts that trigger this crisis are evident: the rise in the standard of living in developing countries translates into greater water consumption, the increase in industrial discharges progressively increases water pollution and climate change favors droughts precisely in highly populated areas .

Globally, our use of fresh water is increasing. The 6.5 billion inhabitants have already taken over the 54% available in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers, but if per capita consumption continues to grow at the current rate, within 25 years man could use more than 90% of fresh water available, leaving only 10% for the rest of the species.

Synthesizing some of the consequences caused by the aforementioned crisis, we have:
· A quarter of the world's population lacks access to safe drinking water.
· 40% of the world's population does not have adequate sanitary facilities.
· About 6,000 children die every day from some disease related to the potable water.
· 80% of diseases in the developing world are closely related to the consumption of unsafe water.

Determinants of water scarcity and possible exit from the crisis

Among the main factors that directly affect the scarcity, I highlight the growing demographic increase and the incessant pollution, a product of technological advance and development.

It is predicted for the year 2050, that if pollution continues at the same growth rate as the population, the world will have lost 18,000 cubic km of fresh water.

Every year between 300 and 500 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other polluting waste from industry accumulate, more than 80% of the world's hazardous waste is produced in the United States and other industrialized countries. In developing countries, 70% of industrial waste is dumped untreated into water that contaminates supply.

To counteract these effects, the global trend is based on the principle of "pollution prevention" that is materialized in the production of non-toxic substances, unlike what happens in underdeveloped countries, where the use of purification of what is already contaminated, which requires a greater effort and entails immeasurable expenses. For this reason, it would be convenient for the governments of third world countries to consider the possibility of granting economic incentives to the adoption of technology aimed at preventing pollution.
Situation in Mercosur.

The Guaraní Aquifer is one of the largest freshwater reserves on the planet, it stores about 40,000 km. cubic meters of water and has a capacity to supply the world's population for approximately 200 years.

Among the benefits of the aquifer, we can mention not only that the waters are of excellent quality for human consumption, but are also suitable for obtaining low enthalpy energy, in addition, in some areas the water is hydrothermal, which favors the use therapeutic medicinal and recreation for relaxation tourism.

Having made this comment, we see how WATER has become, together with OIL, the center of discord in recent decades, this is how a political controversy centered on the management of water resources is presented:
· On the one hand, there are those who argue that water is an essential human right, whose supply and preservation must be in charge of the State.
· And on the other hand, we have the interests of individuals who pursue the deregulation of state services in order to commercialize this resource.
In this regard, in 2004 the Mercosur Joint Parliamentary Commission made two recommendations:
· The creation within Mercosur of a special commission for the study, analysis and comparison of national legislation, referring to the use, exploitation, concession and control of contamination of surface and underground waters from the so-called Guaraní Aquifer System, with the purpose of making recommendations to governments aimed at achieving modifications in current regulations that contemplate minimum contents of protection and rational use of this resource.
· Declare the Guaraní Aquifer System as public domain of the States Parties, with state administration, management and control.

In this sense, I would like to emphasize that I adhere to the recommendations made by the Joint Parliamentary Commission, I believe it is beneficial to declare the Guaraní Aquifer System in the public domain of the Mercosur States Parties, since in principle the state companies do not pursue profitability and this will favor a social tariff for the service provided, considering that today we find thousands of people who only have two options when it comes to quenching their thirst: drink water of questionable quality or buy it.

Regarding the adoption of a common regulation among the Mercosur States Parties, in order to mitigate the irrational and antisocial use of the aforementioned resource, we can happily say that both Brazil and Argentina, after the enactment of the General Law of the Environment No. 25. 675 of the year 2002, have modified and harmonized their internal legal systems regarding environmental protection, taking as a point of reference the guidelines established in the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on environment and development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Once this comment has been made, the SANCTION of a "MERCOSURE FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT that regulates the sustainable exploitation of TRANSBOUNDARY SURFACE and UNDERGROUND waters" becomes urgent. The referred legislation must contemplate the active legitimation of future generations, social control and citizen participation that are fundamental tools for the preservation and maintenance of the mentioned resource.

For all the above reasons, I understand it convenient for the Mercosur States to adhere to the 1998 Denmark Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making processes and access to justice in environmental problems.

In our current context, it turns out to be a very sensitive issue to legislate and adopt policies on environmental matters, but looking to the side can cause very burdensome and even irreparable situations, as Eduardo Galeano said “man is the only animal that cuts the branch on the one who is sitting ”.

* A lawyer. Faculty of Law of the National University of Rosario - Rep. Argentina; Assigned to the subject "Agrarian and Environmental Law", Chair "B" (U.N.R) - (studying 2nd year); Student of the "Master's Degree in Human Environmental Systems", Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (U.N.R.); Author of the book: “Mercosur. A new challenge for humanity: the water crisis ”, prologue: Dr. Luis Orlando Andorno - topic:“ shortage of fresh water worldwide, in Mercosur and in the province of Santa Fe ”and other articles on water resources published in Argentina, Latin America and the European Union
2 VELAZQUEZ, Celso; /articulos/guarani.htm ; General Director of Water Resources SEAM; National Coordinator of the Guaraní Aquifer Regional Project.

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