By Darío Aranda
Federal Justice stopped the construction of private neighborhoods in the sixteen municipalities of Buenos Aires that include the Luján river basin and the Paraná Delta. In a hard setback for the mega real estate companies, the ruling closed two countries (called Venice Ciudad Navegable and Remeros Beach) and demanded that the province fulfill its functions and verify the irregularities of the undertakings. The cause was initiated by social organizations that denounced the direct link between the countries in wetlands and the floods in the region. The ruling questions the actions of the municipalities and highlights the value of the precautionary principle (in the face of the risk of something impacting the environment and health, preventive measures must be taken).
The municipalities of Vicente López, San Isidro, San Fernando, Tigre, Luján, Exaltación de la Cruz, Campana, San Andrés de Giles, General Rodríguez, Mercedes, Suipacha, Pilar, Escobar, Moreno, José C. Paz and San Antonio de Areco They cannot authorize new ventures or extensions to existing ones. This was determined by Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, of the Federal Criminal and Correctional Court No. 1 of San Isidro.
The measure had been promoted by social, neighborhood and environmental organizations in 2012, when they denounced the actions of real estate companies on wetlands, which modified the water flow and made floods frequent (and more serious). The prosecutor Fernando Domínguez requested in February the stoppage of all works. "It has been shown that the construction of closed neighborhoods has not only affected the environment, but has produced serious damage and, consequently, incalculable damage to public and private property, also causing the loss of human life," said the prosecutor.
The recent ruling, of July 1, points out that the mega-enterprise Venice Ciudad Navagable (of the company Marinas Río Luján) obtained the declaration of environmental impact from the municipality of Tigre, but it did not have the evaluation of the Provincial Agency for Sustainable Development ( OPDS). “Venice Navigable City is under construction and does not have an environmental impact statement; in other words, it does not have the main study that grants the authorization to start the works ”, questions Judge Arroyo Salgado and closed the undertaking.
He also asked the OPDS (chaired by Ricardo Pagola) to detail what works were carried out in the country and what damage it caused to the air, water bodies and the environment. And he urged the agency to control that no work is carried out in other ventures.
Martín Nunziata, from the Delta Assembly, pointed out that the ruling is a “very important legal precedent”, the result of years of work by a wide range of organizations, academics and lawyers. "The resolution is very clear regarding the number of violations of current laws that have been incurred by both the municipality of Tigre and other municipalities and the provincial state agency (OPDS)," he stressed.
The ruling highlights the importance of the precautionary principle (in force in the General Environmental Law), which stipulates that when there is a danger of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of information or scientific certainty should not be used as an excuse to postpone measures that prevent the degradation of the environment. The sentence states: “(The private neighborhood) It could have harmful consequences for its environment and for current and future generations. The negative effects could be irreversible, making it necessary to stop the works. "
It also addresses the situation of the Remeros Beach venture (Banco Macro, owned by Jorge Brito). It indicates that it has not yet received approval from the municipality and has not been sent to the provincial body (OPDS). And he prohibited any advance of the venture.
“The truth is that there are indications to suspect that they could (the gated communities) have been a fundamental factor in the degradation that would have been generated. This is why allowing new ventures of this type to continue to be set up would be illogical, "the ruling explains.
The ruling is very harsh with the municipal and provincial authorities: "The municipalities and the Provincial Organism for Sustainable Development are the ones who should have had a measure of this kind within their jurisdictions (stop the undertakings)".
The suspension of new gated communities is temporary, until the completion of an interdisciplinary study that accounts for the "cumulative" effect that the country clubs have had on the environment. The prosecutor Domínguez requested a period of 90 days for the study and proposed a list of independent investigators from the companies. The judge confirmed the essential of this study, but did not set deadlines or specify who will be in charge of it.
Martín Nunziata explained that social organizations consider that the judicial expert opinion will confirm the impacts on the environment and define the "total and definitive prohibition of private urban developments on wetlands and floodplains." He pointed out that they are alert because they know of the influence of political interests and businessmen at stake. He placed special emphasis on Sergio Massa, the banker Jorge Brito and the two main businessmen in the sector: Eduardo Constantini (Consultatio company) and Jorge O'Reilly (Eidico company).
The organizations of Tigre and Escobar will meet this weekend to evaluate the details of the ruling and agree on the steps to follow to obtain the final closure of the countries in wetlands.