Guarani Aquifer. Fresh water, regional heritage

Throughout this text we propose to address the problem of freshwater scarcity in order to identify an agenda of common interests related to its exploitation, distribution and conservation, both for our supply and for that of future generations.

Currently, the United Nations estimates that a quarter of the world's population lacks safe drinking water and this proportion will continue to grow. Under this horizon, we highlight that of the total water resources of our planet, fresh water only represents 3%. . According to the World Water Council, with the current pace of public and private water investments, access to the aforementioned resource will not be guaranteed until 2050 in Africa, 2025 in Asia and 2040 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In general, we understand the aforementioned crisis as a result of the growing demographic increase, pollution, irrational use of water and the privatization of the exploitation of our water resources, since, as we have observed, our recent privatization model does not allow us has guaranteed universal access to water, nor good quality, much less adequate rates.

As noted, fresh water is one of the most precious non-renewable natural resources, therefore agriculture, livestock, people's health and nutrition, ecosystems, industry, and energy depend on its adequate supply and management. , the maintenance of peace and social stability. In this sense, the North American analyst Hughes Butts maintains that: “no country can be economically or socially stable without a secure water supply.”

Fresh water, social good or commodity?

It is important to establish the concept of “water” that is debated in global conflicts, since it is postulated through two antagonistic assumptions: “a social good linked to the right to life versus a commodity for profit.”

By virtue of the projection described, we observe conflicting interests: on the one hand, private companies pursue profit as their sole goal and, on the other hand, consumers have the preservation of this finite and vital resource as their goal.

Under this approach, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the nations of the North need the natural resources of the South to continue with its expansion processes motivated by the accumulation of wealth and in the present international strategic scenario, it is warned that whoever manages to control fresh water will dominate the world economy and life in the not too distant future.

Having made this introduction, we must highlight that “our Guaraní Aquifer” is one of the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and has the capacity to supply the world's population for approximately two hundred years. This basin rests in the subsoil of the territories of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, signatory countries of the Treaty of Asunción of March 26, 1991, which gave rise to the birth of the MERCOSUR and is housed in ancient geological formations that are between 200 and 132 million years old, a time when Africa and South America were still united.

Although the environmental issue was a concern for the States parties since the very origin of MERCOSUR, matters related to groundwater and the Guaraní Aquifer in particular had to wait a few years to see the light.

It was more than eleven years after the first reference to the aforementioned topic that the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer became a reference topic for the Presidents of MERCOSUR in their Presidential Declarations, which are the basic guidelines that they outline for the future development of the regional integration process. Thus, on August 15, 2003, on the occasion of the presidential change in the Republic of Paraguay with the assumption of the first magistracy of the aforementioned country of Nicanor Duarte Frutos, the Presidents of MERCOSUR took into account the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer although with a vague reference in the last point of the Declaration they signed.

The Guarani Aquifer in Mercosur

From this extraordinary meeting held in Paraguay, the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer began to take on greater relevance, fundamentally due to the impulse of the Uruguayan Government that presented the “Bases for an Agreement of the States Parties of MERCOSUR relating to the Guaraní Aquifer”, through of which it sought to implement in the Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Project of the Guaraní Aquifer System in order to guarantee its preservation and the responsible use of its resources. In this sense, through the MERCOSUR/CMC/DEC Decision. On 23/04, a High Level Ad Hoc Group was created with the aim of developing a Project on the Guaraní Aquifer that would carry out its task during the second half of 2004.

Although during 2004 the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer occupied the agenda of the Presidents of MERCOSUR, the issue little by little began to lose prominence, without even achieving the results proposed on the occasion of the aforementioned extraordinary meeting in Asunción, Paraguay. In this sense, the last reference, as far as Presidential Communiqués are concerned, is found in the one drafted after the XXIX Presidential Summit of December 2005 in Montevideo, where the Presidents “Took note of the status of the negotiations of the draft Agreement on the Guaraní Aquifer, which enshrines principles and criteria that guarantee the permanent and unquestionable sovereignty of the four States Parties over this important transboundary water resource, ensuring its rational and sustainable use. Likewise, they highlighted the importance of expanding technical and scientific knowledge about the Guaraní Aquifer System.”

First agreement

Now, while this was happening at the Presidential Summits, the States party to MERCOSUR signed an Agreement for the achievement of the "Project for Environmental Protection and Integrated Sustainable Development of the Guaraní Aquifer System (SAG)", of which Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay. The aforementioned Agreement has financing from the World Bank and its executing unit is the Organization of American States.

This Agreement, of which the MERCOSUR member States took part, is developed outside the integration process, which until now limits its actions on the subject to political declarations but not in-depth work on how to convey these declarations into concrete facts that guarantee , as stated in the "Project for Environmental Protection and Integrated Sustainable Development of the Guaraní Aquifer System (SAG)", that “The Guaraní Aquifer System will be preserved from contamination and managed based on criteria of rational, equitable and sustainable use, taking into account “take into account the particular characteristics of the resource and the relevant factors.”

To achieve this, it is necessary to advance joint management of the resource by an organization created within MERCOSUR and not outside it, which manages and protects the Aquifer in a global manner. Without attempting to transpolate historical experiences, the example of the CECA (European Coal and Steel Community) can be useful to design an Aquifer Administration model, given that there are many issues in common that both situations have, whether due to the nature transnational resource or because it is a fundamental natural resource for its holders.

Fresh water is blue gold

However, despite these coincidental issues, there are two central elements that give particularity to the case we are analyzing, firstly the natural resource in question, since water is extremely more important in the future than coal and steel represented in the middle of the last century and, along with this, the existing relationship between the States that share the natural resource, given that those who share the Guaraní Aquifer have been without war conflicts among themselves for more than 100 years.

Given the “rare” coincidence between the disappearance from the public political sphere of the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer and the modernization of its study, fundamentally financed by the World Bank, we understand that it is extremely important as citizens that we try to shed light on the issue, so that We can decide the “future of all” “among all of us.”

Based on what has been stated so far, the adoption of Mercosur regulations that establish clear rules of the game regarding the sustainable exploitation of surface and groundwater cannot be postponed. The aforementioned 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 aforementioned resource.

In order to carry out this work, we consider necessary a radical change of attitude on the part of citizens, leaving it up to each State to guide the health user to ensure better use of water, reducing waste, increasing the commitment of the community with the environment and through education, stimulate universal awareness about the dangers that threaten us, since from the data analyzed it is clear that fresh water constitutes a scarce means of survival.

In this sense, we consider it advisable that the Mercosur States adhere to the Aarhus Convention of Denmark of 1998, on access to information, public participation in decision-making processes and access to justice in environmental problems to guarantee in this way a greater involvement of citizens in issues related to the environment.

Finally, and as a way of reflecting on this problem of general interest, we thought it appropriate to quote the following poetry by the beloved Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti, with the hope that it continues to be poetry and does not become a prophecy:

Waters

They say that water will be essential
much more necessary than oil
the empires of always therefore
They will steal our water in spurts
the wedding gifts will be the taps
water will give the laurels of poetry
the Nobel will provide a waterfall
and the rains will be quoted on the stock market
retirees will receive leaks
the millionaires who own the flood
They will sell tears wholesale
a capital will be measured by liters
each company will have its whirlpool
its lagoon forbidden to outsiders
its museum of prestigious languages
its postcards of snow and dew
and we pale thirsty
with a dry tongue we will toast
with the water on the rocks. www.ecoportal.net

Notes

1 . Lawyer (UNR) - Argentine Rep. She is a student of the “Master's Degree in Human Environmental Systems”, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (UNR). She is enrolled in the subject “Agrarian and Environmental Law”, Chair “B” (UNR) - (2nd year). Participant of the “Agribusiness Interest Group” of the Faculty of Business Sciences of the Austral University of Rosario. Author of the book: “MERCOSUR: A new challenge for humanity. The water crisis” UNR Editor, prologue: Dr. Luis Orlando Andorno and other articles on water resources.
2 . Graduate in Political Science (UBA) - Argentine Rep. and Master in European Union Studies (UdC) - Spain. Correspondent researcher in Argentina of the research team «Intégrations dans les Amériques Latines» of the Center de Recherche et de Documentation sur l'Amérique latine (CREDAL) and the Institut des Hautes Études de l'Amérique latine (IHEAL) - Université de Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle." Author of publications on regional integration in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc.
3 . In the Declaration signed by the Presidents of the States party to MERCOSUR on the occasion of the celebration of the First Presidential Summit, on December 17, 1991 in the city of Brasilia, point 9 states: “9.- The Presidents highlighted the convenience of the four Republics arriving at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, in June 1992, with identical positions of principle and equal proposals, including regarding the common legislative treatment of infractions and crimes against the environment, recommending, to this end, the efforts of its competent agencies.”
4 . Point 10 of the signed Declaration only stated that “10. The Presidents of MERCOSUR took note with interest of Uruguay's initiative regarding the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer, in the sense of presenting the bases for an instrument that addresses this issue."
5 . Some references on the subject are found in the Presidential Declaration signed in Puerto Iguazú on July 8, 2004, after the closing of the XXVI Summit of Presidents of MERCOSUR, where point 28 states that the Presidents “Agreed on the importance of adopt commitments at the MERCOSUR level in relation to the Guaraní Aquifer and, in this context, expressed their support for the creation of a High Level Ad Hoc Group, in which the States Parties will debate the basic principles and guidelines that guarantee their rights over the resources water resources of the Aquifer, as well as the policies and measures that promote the environmental protection of the Aquifer and sustainable development, with a view to the eventual signing of an agreement on the matter”; in the Presidential Declaration of December of the same year, after the XXVII Presidential Summit held in Ouro Preto on the occasion of celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Signing of the Ouro Preto protocol. On that occasion, and in reference to the issue of the Guaraní Aquifer, the Presidents “Reaffirmed that the water resources of the Guaraní Aquifer are part of the sovereign territorial domain of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and decided to convene a Conference of the States Parties to conclude the negotiation of an agreement on the Guaraní Aquifer, based on the project prepared by the High Level Ad Hoc Group, which met in the second half of 2004.”

And finally, as a corollary of the XXVIII Presidential Summit of MERCOSUR, held between June 18 and 20, 2005 in the city of Asunción, Paraguay, the Presidents of the region “Highlighted the important advances achieved within the framework of the “Group Ad High Level Hoc of the Guaraní Aquifer" for the preparation of the "Draft Agreement on the Guaraní Aquifer", which has the purpose of reaffirming the sovereignty of the States Parties over the aforementioned Aquifer, the defense of this extraordinary heritage to prevent its contamination and determine the use of this transboundary natural resource. They expressed their wishes that the Conference convened by the CMC conclude the Agreement, and agreed to make the maximum possible efforts to support the work of the Conference and propose formulas to resolve the issues still pending.