A popular triumph in the defense of water sources

A popular triumph in the defense of water sources

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By Marta Maffei

They spent two years without rest spreading, socializing and deepening the social consensus in favor of the law and understanding of the growing risk to which government irresponsibility subjected us in collusion with the voracity of the open pit mining monopolies. But above all, it is a tool to continue defending the right to water of our peoples.

When two years ago President Cristina Kirchener vetoed Law 26,418 on the Protection of Glaciers and the Periglacial Environment, few of us thought that the water from the glaciers would have another chance.

The delivery in favor of the combined lobby of the mining transnationals, in particular Barrick Gold and a sector of Andean governors led by José Luis Gioja de San Juan, scandalously defending the interests of those corporations (which in several cases share) even though they simulate angry clamors of federalism, it generated a dark panorama and at the same time exposed the way in which this combination of neo-colonizers and corrupt people fiercely fights any possibility of environmental protection, with legal maneuvers or not.

His concept of democracy is very limited. It serves to demand that governments respect "their acquired rights" not to accept that the peoples exercise their own rights, much less when they can limit the market horizon. A democracy tailored to the managers, soldiers of dark monopolies that day by day destroy, advancing on our goods, territories and resources, the very democracy that they proclaim.

At that time, Kirchener's hegemony in the Chambers added high levels of uncertainty. It was clear that it had been one thing to vote a good law and another to oppose the presidential Veto. The attitude of Senator Filmus, an informant member in the sanction of the Senate and bluntly supporting the law then vetoed, was clear testimony of the havoc that the executive's decision caused in the ranks of many alleged defenders of natural resources, including several “ experts ”environmentalists.

In reality, the law had been voted unanimously in both Houses precisely because of the vital importance of glaciers.

- for the impeccable quality of its waters,
- for its versatile operation in relation to the recharge demands of the water basins that originate in the Cordillera,
- for its effective contribution against global warming,
- for its beauty and its tourist impact,
- for the subsistence of agriculture and life in the valleys watered by thaws channeled into ditches and canals, absolutely dependent on those Andean basins,
- Finally, for the justice and clarity of the proposal contained in the law

But that was not the point. The law was fair, measured, timely, necessary and had worked until reaching a difficult consensus in these times. It preserved, cared for, and protected glacier water from wasteful or polluting use by mining companies, oil companies or any other predatory activity undertaken by interests that do not recognize limits, controls, or measures. It is clear that it did not prohibit any activity in itself, it only limited the possibility of carrying it out at the expense of destroying the glaciers or periglacial zone, putting their functions at risk or polluting them. Remember that glaciers occupy only a small portion of the Cordillera.

Thus, Deputy Bonasso, aware of the difficulty in trying to reverse the presidential veto, presented the original project again, while Filmus managed to get the Senate to approve an alternative proposal clearly more favorable to mining interests.

While Congress continued to ponder alternatives advised by specialists and pressured by different interests, a growing involvement by society began to be evident.

Comrades and advisers, geologists, glaciologists, journalists, collaborating environmentalists, convinced of the vital importance of the project, participated and accompanied us in countless programs, conferences, public hearings, talks, conferences, promoted by public, academic, cultural institutions, non-governmental organizations. governments, indigenous communities, unions, political parties, neighborhood societies from all over the country to expose and debate the importance of protecting and defending common goods, particularly water.

They were two years without rest, spreading, socializing and deepening the social consensus in favor of the law and the understanding of the growing risk to which government irresponsibility subjected us in collusion with the voracity of the open pit mining monopolies.

The popular response was categorical: "the glaciers defend themselves."

"Water is worth more than gold" was the slogan and popular solidarity grew so much that the government, anticipating the possible sanction of a new project, agreed in Canada and pressed together with the mining companies for supposedly protective provincial laws to be enacted of the glaciers, absolutely complacent with the ongoing forms of exploitation.

The visibility of the interests involved ended up exploding in their faces when the pressure of economic groups did not recognize limits and rioted in stickers, notes, requested in favor of "responsible and sustainable mining" disgust everyone with the constant presence of their officials and managers in each area of ​​power and over each Senator. A situation that, although it is hard for them to believe it, also operated in favor of the law. It was a real harassment, shameless, wasteful, which improved the visualization of the threads behind the plot, making impossible the support of those who believed they could hide with impunity in the false federalism.

Thus, and given the imminence of a new sanction that left, now clearly, exposed to the Executive Power and its partners, the authorities reported that this time there would be no veto and while they worked to stop the law.

Social pressure allowed Bonasso to reach consensus in Commission for the original project with minor modifications. Filmus, aware of the imminence of a confrontation capable of making both projects unfeasible or giving support to Bonasso's, chose to support an alternative agreed with on the original text that resulted in an even more favorable proposal for the protection of glaciers supported mainly in the Precinct. by Deputies. The project continued the debate in the Senate that finally sanctioned it by 35 votes to 33 in the early morning of 9/30/2010 in the middle of a social call made by the Union of Citizen Assemblies along with hundreds of other Environmental Organizations and a cantata of young musicians who without a solution of continuity testified at the gates of Congress which are the calls that move them.

Social commitment was the key, it was heard throughout the country and also abroad. It generated the climate that made the stubbornness of the government unsustainable and the interests and pressure of the mining transnationals and the allied governors absolutely transparent.

The Law of Minimum Budgets for the Protection of Glaciers and the Periglacial Environment, is a popular victory. But above all, it is a tool to continue defending the right to water of our peoples.

Latin America is the best reservoir of fresh water on the planet and therefore is subject to the relentless voracity of both the countries that squandered and polluted their water resources from a predatory development and consumption model, as well as the economic groups that disguised of "investors" loot the impressive wealth of our peoples who, paradoxically, have come to be called "poor."

Added to the victory with the glacier law is the impressive growth of an environmental awareness among citizens, which, without going any further, in Brazil, received the support of 22 million votes. The central idea of ​​seeking alternative development models capable of being effectively compatible with environmental, economic, political and social sustainability is already walking the paths of Latin America. An "unexpected" achievement according to the same media that, for years, eat our heads with the reiteration of urban insecurity and the crime that, although serious, is not enough to hide the "other insecurity", the other crimes blessed with the halo of progress, whose consequences on life and health are originated from the predatory and polluting forms of production. Allergies, asthma, all kinds of respiratory and skin diseases, tumors, abortions, malformations, spread over defenseless populations as the market celebrates the growth of GDP.

Making risk and alternative solutions visible is part of our challenge and that of all of Latin America.

The Law that protects our glaciers is a concrete step in the right direction. A step in favor of life.

This battle was won by THE GLACIERS !!! And the people won it.

It is not the only battle that we owe ourselves, for that we need to prepare.

Final Text of the Law of Minimum Budgets for the Protection of Glaciers and Periglacial environment

Article 1 - Object.

This law establishes the minimum budgets for the protection of glaciers and the periglacial environment in order to preserve them as strategic reserves of water resources for human consumption; for agriculture and as water providers for the recharge of hydrographic basins; for the protection of biodiversity; as a source of scientific information and as a tourist attraction.

Glaciers are public assets.

Art. 2 - Definition.

For the purposes of this law, a glacier is understood to be any stable or slowly flowing perennial ice mass, with or without interstitial water, formed by the recrystallization of snow, located in different ecosystems, whatever their shape, dimension and state of conservation. The rocky detrital material and the internal and superficial water courses are a constituent part of each glacier.

Likewise, the periglacial environment in the high mountains is understood to be the area with frozen soils that acts as a regulator of water resources. In the middle and low mountains to the area that functions as a regulator of water resources with soils saturated in ice.

Art. 3 - Inventory.

Create the National Glacier Inventory, where all glaciers and periglacial geoforms that act as existing water reserves in the national territory will be identified with all the information necessary for their adequate protection, control and monitoring.

Art. 4 - Registered information.

The National Glacier Inventory must contain information on glaciers and the periglacial environment by hydrographic basin, location, surface and morphological classification of glaciers and the periglacial environment. This inventory must be updated with a periodicity of no more than 5 years, verifying the changes in the surface of the glaciers and the periglacial environment, their state of advance or retreat and other factors that are relevant for their conservation.

Art. 5 - Taking the Inventory.-

The inventory and monitoring of the state of the glaciers and the periglacial environment will be carried out and under the responsibility of the Argentine Institute of Nivology, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA) with the coordination of the national authority of application of this law.

Intervention will be given to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, International Trade and Worship in the case of border areas pending demarcation of the international boundary prior to registering the inventory.

Art. 6 - Forbidden activities.-

In glaciers, activities that may affect their natural condition or the functions indicated in article 1, those that imply their destruction or transfer or interfere with their advance, are prohibited, in particular the following:

a) The release, dispersion or disposal of polluting substances or elements, chemical products or residues of any nature or volume. Those that develop in the periglacial environment are included in this restriction.

b) The construction of architectural or infrastructure works with the exception of those necessary for scientific research and risk prevention.

c) Mining and hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation. Those that develop in the periglacial environment are included in this restriction.

d) The installation of industries or development of works or industrial activities. Those that develop in the periglacial environment are included in this restriction.

Art. 7 - Environmental impact assessment.

All activities planned in the glaciers and in the periglacial environment, which are not prohibited, will be subject to an environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment procedure, as appropriate according to their scale of intervention, in which an instance must be guaranteed. of citizen participation in accordance with the provisions of articles 19, 20 and 21 of Law 25,675 –General Environmental Law–, prior to its authorization and execution, in accordance with current regulations.

The following activities are exempt from this requirement:

a) Rescue, derived from emergencies;

b) Scientific, carried out on foot or on skis, with possible sampling, that do not leave waste in the glaciers and the periglacial environment;

c) Sports, including mountaineering, climbing and non-motorized sports that do not disturb the environment.

Art. 8 - Competent authorities.

For the purposes of this law, the competent authority will be the one determined by each jurisdiction. In the case of protected areas covered by law 22,351, the National Parks Administration will be the competent authority.

Art. 9 - Enforcement authority.

The enforcement authority of this law will be the highest hierarchical national body with environmental competence.

Art. 10. - Features.

The functions of the national enforcement authority will be:

a) Formulate actions conducive to the conservation and protection of glaciers and the periglacial environment, in coordination with the competent authorities of the provinces, within the scope of the Federal Environmental Council (COFEMA), and with the ministries of the Executive Power National in the scope of their respective competences;

b) Contribute to the formulation of a policy regarding climate change in accordance with the objective of preservation of glaciers, both in the national sphere and within the framework of international agreements on climate change;

c) Coordinate the realization and updating of the National Inventory of Glaciers, through the Argentine Institute of Nivology, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA);

d) Prepare a periodic report on the state of the existing glaciers in the Argentine territory, as well as the projects or activities carried out on glaciers or their areas of influence, which will be sent to the National Congress;

e) Advise and support local jurisdictions in glacier monitoring, inspection and protection programs;

f) Create research promotion and incentive programs;

g) Develop environmental education and information campaigns in accordance with the objectives of this law;

h) Include the main results of the National Glacier Inventory and its updates in national communications aimed at informing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Art. 11. - Infringements and sanctions.

The sanctions for non-compliance with this law and the regulations that are issued as a consequence, without prejudice to the other responsibilities that may correspond, will be those established in each of the jurisdictions according to the police power that corresponds to them, the which may not be lower than those established here.

Jurisdictions that do not have a sanctions regime will additionally apply the following sanctions that correspond to the national jurisdiction:

a) Warning;

b) A fine of one hundred (100) to one hundred thousand (100,000) basic salaries of the initial category of the national public administration;

c) Suspension or revocation of authorizations. The suspension of the activity may be from thirty (30) days to one (1) year, as appropriate and taking into account the circumstances of the case;

d) Definitive cessation of activity.

These sanctions will be applicable after a substantiated summary in the jurisdiction where the infraction was made and will be governed by the corresponding administrative procedure rules, ensuring due legal process, and will be graduated according to the nature of the infraction.

Art. 12. - Recidivism.

In the event of recidivism, the minimum and maximum penalties provided for in paragraphs b) and c) of the previous article may be tripled. A repeat offender will be considered to be someone who, within a term of five (5) years prior to the date of commission of the offense, has been sanctioned for another environmental offense.

Art. 13. - Joint responsibility.

When the offender is a legal person, those in charge of the direction, administration or management, will be jointly and severally liable for the sanctions established in this law.

Art. 14. - Destination of the amounts received.

The amounts received by the competent authorities, by way of fines, will be allocated, as a priority, to the protection and environmental restoration of the glaciers affected in each of the jurisdictions.

Art. 15. - Transitional provision.

Within a maximum period of sixty (60) days from the enactment of this law, IANIGLA will present to the national enforcement authority a schedule for the execution of the inventory, which must begin immediately in those areas in which , due to the existence of activities contemplated in article 6, are considered priority. In these areas, the inventory defined in article 3 must be carried out within a period of no more than 180 days.

To this end, the competent authorities must provide you with all the pertinent information that said institute requires.

The activities described in article 6, in execution at the time of the enactment of this law, must, within a maximum period of 180 days from the enactment of this law, undergo an environmental audit in which the potential environmental impacts are identified and quantified. and generated. In case of verifying significant impact on glaciers or periglacial environment, contemplated in article 2, the authorities will order the pertinent measures to comply with this law, being able to order the cessation or transfer of the activity and the protection, cleaning and restoration measures that correspond.

Art. 16. - Argentine Antarctic Sector.

In the Argentine Antarctic Sector, the application of this law will be subject to the obligations assumed by the Argentine Republic under the Antarctic Treaty and the Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection.

Art. 17.- This law will be regulated within 90 days from its publication in the Official Gazette.

Art. 18. - Communicate to the Executive Power

Marta Maffei, deputy mandate fulfilled, was the author of the glaciers law that the president vetoed and that later, modified, was approved by both chambers. October 2010 - Argentina.

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