Action against agrochemicals in Paraguay

[img_assist|nid=97|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=150|height=113]On December 3rd, various Paraguayan civil society organizations commemorated the international day against agrochemicals. They paraded through the capital city of Asunción and its suburbs to demand that various authorities fulfill their duties of controlling and regulating agrochemicals.

Three cases were presented to the Secretary of Environment, the Municipality of Asunción and the Ministery of Agriculture: first of all, the indiscriminate use of agrochemicals in Paraguay's rural areas, second the location of a chemical factory amidst an urban area in the city of Ñeemby and finally the construction of the Cargill company’s megaport in Asuncion's harbor.

Below is the letter that was presented to the different authorities. Some of the authorities have committed to starting a dialogue about these questions in the near future with the organizations present.

Asunción, December 3rd 2007

To the Corresponding Authorities,

Today we internationally commemorate the chemical tragedy that occurred in the city of Bhopal, India, in 1984. 40 tons of gas (metil isocianate) escaped from a chemical platform installed by the multinational Union Carbide corporation. This resulted in 30.000 deaths and over 500.000 affected. Even today, one person dies daily due to the effects of this leak.

The tragedy of the chemicals exists as well in our country, though with another intensity. The production and indiscriminate use of pesticides mainly in the monocultural soy agroindustry, has affected various lives over the last years, caused the health of thousands of people to deteriorate, and is the main source of soil and water contamination. Therefore we want to show our deep concern. We believe that the human rights of entire communities are violated, or threatened to be so, in 3 ways:

The first is the fast expansion of the soy frontier that avances in the margen of environmental laws, expelling small farmers and indigenous population from their ancestral territories. Over 2,600,000 hectares of Paraguay have already been converted in a more and more toxic green desert, and it’s been foreseen that the cultivated area will keep on growing in the next years. Soy does not only destroy original ecosystems by the intensive use of agrochemicals, it eliminates jobs as fumigation is mechanized and does not provide indirect jobs for the Paraguayan state. As such the profits made by the businessmen are not redistributed. All this ends up feeding the poverty belts around the cities and the corrosion of human interaction in Paraguayan society.

The second threat is the installation of agrochemical factories, such as Chemtec, close to dense urban areas such as in the neighborhood of los Naranjos in Ñeemby. The inhabitants living in areas bordering this factory, which even has test fields in this urban zone, are real guinea pigs whose health suffers from being fumigated daily. They are permanently exposed to the risk of escaping gases or liquids that could severely poison them.

The third threat is the installation of the megaport and oil plant of the in the neighboorhood Zeballos Cue in capital Asunción by the multinational corporation Cargill. The land where the plant is projected to be built is less than 500 meters away from the main water sources of the ESSAP water company, which provides water to more than 1,100,000 people. These installations are highly contaminating and will indefinitely affect the water sources and the treatment plants of ESSAP. That is why we can not understand how environmental licenses have been given without consulting the affected populations, which in this case are all the inhabitants of Asunción plus some residents of the Metropolitan area.

Therefore we demand:

A direct reaction via a plan of territorial order that guarantees a healthy environment, as established in the “Carta Magna” of the constitution, and protection of all small farming and indigenous communities in the country; the elaboration of a law that regulates the production and use of agrochemicals; urgent action to comply with the few existing regulations on pesticides and sanctions for those who violate these regulations; the transfer of the location of the Chemtec factory and other factories that are in similar situations, to zones where no human populations are affected, and the effective oversight of the execution of the means of mitigating the environmental impact; the cessation of the construction of the megaport works until an evaluation of its environmental impact is realized in a transparent and participative way;

Agrochemicals remain one of the principal causes of the destruction of life and the planet and a patriotic political decision is required to confront this scourge.

If swift and decisive action is not taken, the deaths and illness caused by these substances will be the responsibility of the authorities.

Paraguayan Initiative for the Integration of the People
Civil Assembly for Health and Life