02 September 2006

Ecodisaster on the way

The Paraná River is not without problems, and according to La Capital, another one is on the way.

The Paraná River north of Rosario forms a huge floodplain with many islands, streams, wetlands and lagoons. In front of Rosario the main course goes from 600 m to 2 km wide, but the floodplain goes on for 50 km to Victoria, province of Entre Ríos. The interprovincial line goes along the main course, so the thriving wetland ecosystem located 1 km off Rosario's coast belongs to Victoria, a small town 50 km away (!?). Now Entre Ríos has decided to let farmers and tourism companies use 130,000 hectares of it. The province of Santa Fe had no say.

Victoria's farmers have been using the slash-and-burn technique for some time now. A couple of weeks ago everybody in Rosario woke up to find streets, trees, squares and their own homes covered in ashes blown across the river. The Santa Fe provincial government asked Entre Ríos to end this, in terms that reminded me of when Ned Flanders asks Homer Simpson to return his lawnmower or TV table. The government of Entre Ríos replied something to the effect of "OK, please wait over there and we'll fix it -- sometime".

60 days from now the farmers will come in and start transforming one of the last large wetlands in the planet in a mosaic of pasture fields and transgenic monoculture soybean crops.

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