Water and air surrounding the Botnia pulp mill along the river Uruguay, next to the city of Fray Bentos, has not suffered any quality modifications and the plant complies with the environmental standards demanded by Uruguay, Argentina and the European Union, according to the latest international report
Canadian company Ecometrix was contracted by the World Bank to monitor the environmental impact of the plant which produces a million tons of pulp annually and is at the heart of an international dispute with Argentina.
The quality of the River Uruguay water has not suffered quality modifications because of the Botina plant and the company has complied with the “maximum concentration limits specified by Uruguay’s Environmental agency”, reads the report specifically underlining that the quality of the water between the pulp mill and the city is comparable to that further away from Botnia.
Furthermore “the quality of the air has remained at foreseen levels” and there is no indication of adverse effects for human health.
For its report Ecometrix took samples in 16 different stations marked by Uruguay’s Environment agency along the river Uruguay between January first and December 31st, 2008. Botnia officially began production in November 2007.
Interviewed by Uruguayan radio stations Botnia’s Communications officer Florencia Herrera said that a year since the plant started production, “Botnia operates correctly according to parameters from Argentina, Uruguay and even the European Union”.
Ms. Herrera said that reports “continue to confirm that there’s no environmental impact on the water or the air. It’s out of the question, the plant does not affect the water quality of the river Uruguay” and this is because, “Botnia is among the most modern plants of its kind in the world”.
Uruguay and Argentina have an ongoing double dispute since the Botnia project was launched three years ago. Argentina objects the fact that allegedly she was not consulted about the building of the pulp mill on the Uruguayan side of the shared and jointly managed river Uruguay, as demanded by a treaty dating back to the seventies.
Argentina placed a demand before the International Court of The Hague which is currently looking at the case. A ruling is expected next October.
The second front refers to the alleged negative environmental impact of the Botnia plant which has become the rallying cause (originally promoted by Argentine authorities) of the neighbouring city of Gualeguaychú across the river Uruguay.
Pickets from Gualeguaychú have blocked for over two years now the international bridge linking Uruguay and Argentina to protest the environmental impact of the pulp mill demanding it be relocated. This has interfered with normal passenger and cargo traffic between the neighbouring countries for which Uruguay has presented claims before Mercosur.
In spite of both sides willingness to overcome differences, and of mediation and “facilitating” efforts (by envoys from the Spanish King) the situation remains stalled: Uruguay will not sit to talk unless the trade-blocking pickets are lifted and Argentina argues it can’t infringe on the rights of peaceful citizens making use of their right to protest.
Meantime both countries have extended their dispute to other fields: Uruguay will not support the candidacy of Mr. Nestor Kirchner as chairman of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) and Argentina won’t approve much needed soft loans for Uruguay from a special Mercosur infrastructure fund.
And as the conflict drags on, the fact is that no Argentine supported or sponsored environmental impact report has come up with evidence to support the position of Gualeguaychú protestors, rather the contrary.