Clean air, water purification, water reserve and absorption of agents that contribute to global warming are some of the properties of wetlands. It is one of the noblest and most important ecosystems that exist, which fulfills key functions for the balance of the environment.
In Argentina there are territories of all types that fall under this figure and 23 of them are considered of international importance.
The attempts to promote a law that protects them in the country lost parliamentary status four times despite the fact that, according to Conicet definitions, wetlands represent 21.5% of the national territory, they are essential both to mitigate droughts and floods due to their functions. ecosystems and that the consequences derived from the destruction of these ecosystems have been suffered in large cities, such as Buenos Aires or Rosario, directly.
Read also: Lack of wetlands and heavy rains: what is behind the flooding of the Paraná that complicates the northeast of the country
On February 2, 1971, the Convention on Wetlands was held in the Iranian city of Ramsar. From then on, that date was established as International Wetlands Day. Argentina acceded to this agreement in 1991.
Argentina has 23 Ramsar sites, named this way because they have international importance within the framework of the Convention on Wetlands, distributed in almost all provinces.
The memory of the ashes and smoke that invaded several cities on the banks of the Paraná River in 2020 and 2022 due to the fires in the Delta is still fresh (the most affected were Rosario, Villa Constitución, San Nicolás and San Pedro, among others) . These were the direct consequences of not correctly preserving wetlands, which provide clean air, purified water, natural recycling, generation of organic matter and the continuity in the development of multiple species.
Conserving these ecosystems also helps in places where the climate is dry, so they are vital to maintain balance, such as in the Andean region of the country (Jujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca, Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja).
“Andean wetlands are extremely fragile ecosystems, where water is a scarce factor and natural discharge is exacerbated by climate change. And the situation worsens due to the enormous pressure they receive from lithium mining,” Pía Marchegiani, deputy executive director of the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN), explained to TN.
The Catamarca plateau has about 38,000km2. (Photo: Humedales Foundation / Wetlands International LAC)
The greatest pressure on these wetlands is due to “rental to different mining projects in the same ecosystem,” Marchegiani explained, something that does not contribute to the water deficit in these regions. “There is a tendency to see the environment as an obstacle to development, when, in reality, with an adequate ecosystem protection policy, more confidence is generated because the country would be aligned with global commitments on climate change and biodiversity protection.”
Meanwhile, he stressed that the country does not have a wetlands law, despite the fact that “civil society has been asking for it for more than 12 years” and highlighted: “Different agroindustrial, real estate and mining lobbies are stopping a wetland protection law.” ”.
Wetlands Law, the project that never came to fruition
The possibility of Argentina having a wetlands law stalled several times in Congress and four projects lost parliamentary status, after having obtained an opinion, from 2013 to the present. The last one was the one that generated the most debate, at the end of 2022 and with half of the Paraná Delta burning due to fires that lasted months and devastated hundreds of thousands of hectares.
At that time, three committees of the Chamber of Deputies were discussing, in plenary session, the wetlands bill promoted by the then legislator Leonardo Grosso (Frente de Todos). This initiative became known as the “consensus law”, since more than 500 environmental organizations, scientists and specialists supported it. And not only did it have the approval of the environmental sector, but opposition deputies also signed it.
The project contemplated the definition of wetlands, the regulation of the territories, their organization through inventories and a moratorium so that between the period of a possible sanction of the law and its implementation the ecosystems are not degraded, among other issues. .
The smoke from the fires on the islands of the Paraná Delta affected Rosario for months. (Photo: NA).
In 2022 it was put up for debate at the initiative of the Commission on Natural Resources and Conservation of the Human Environment (now deactivated) and lobbies against it began. Grosso recalled, in dialogue with TN, that there were not only demonstrations by some opponents: “The PRO was opposed, due to the articles linked to agriculture, and the governors of the Norte Grande (Misiones, Corrientes, Chaco, Formosa, Jujuy, Salta, La Rioja, Catamarca, Tucumán and Santiago del Estero), for articles linked to mining.”
Read also: Wetlands, a postponed debate: differences on the scope of the law and the times to sanction it
“We solved several important issues. It closed for the organizations, for a part of the PRO and for ours, but when we went to the plenary session of commissions (together with the Budget and Agriculture Commissions) to rule, they asked us for time to review the project about something that had been discussed for some time. more than ten years,” he said.
The debate began to stagnate, even due to movements within the Frente de Todos itself. In this way, two opinions emerged: one of the majority, which was promoted by Together for Change, different from the agreed law, and one of the minority, which was Grosso's initiative.
The fires in Corrientes affected the Iberá wetlands, among other territories. Added to the irreparable environmental damage were million-dollar losses in the productive sector (Photo: NA/REWILDING ARGENINA)
The majority opinion was never discussed, therefore, neither was the minority opinion. In this way, both lost parliamentary status in December and the wetlands law fell for the fourth time, after failed attempts in 2015, 2018 and 2021.
“We do not want the law to prohibit anything but to regulate. “We are not against economic activity, lithium or the people who live on the islands,” Grosso said. And he highlighted that the agreed bill can be taken up by any legislator: “The current context is a little more complex. I see a wetlands law as much more complicated now, but I see it as more necessary than before.”