Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fighting to save glaciers

Marcela Valente in IPS via Tierramérica: Argentina's glaciers, along with Chile's the most extensive of South America, manifest the damage caused by climate change, while they also face threats from mining and major transportation infrastructure projects. A law to protect them has been postponed yet again. Glaciers are vast reserves of freshwater, vital for feeding rivers, lakes and underground water tables. But rising global temperatures are shrinking their ability to serve that function.

"Climate change is the main cause of glacier retraction, but also affecting them are the petroleum industry, large-scale mining, high-impact tourism and infrastructure projects," glaciologist Ricardo Villalba, director of the Argentine Institute of Snow and Glacier Research and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA), told Tierramérica.

….Experts from IANIGLA and environmental organisations are promoting a law to preserve these ice masses, which the Argentine Congress passed in 2008. But President Cristina Fernández vetoed it, saying the law was "excessive" in banning economic activities on or around the glaciers. After that failure, the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, voted in August on a new text, which was to come up for debate in the Senate on Sep. 8, but the Senators decided to put it off until the end of the month. The greatest resistance comes from lawmakers representing Argentina's western mining provinces, including San Juan and La Rioja.

…The proposed legislation calls for the creation of a national glacier inventory, an essential tool that would be entrusted to the experts at IANIGLA. If the law is passed, the Institute would be given the authority to decide on every mining or infrastructure project.

Controversial projects like Pascua Lama -- an open-pit gold mine extending into both Chile and Argentina, run by the Canadian company Barrick Gold -- would be subject to audit by the Institute, and could be suspended if preservation of the glaciers is not guaranteed….

The Spegazzini glacier in Argentina, shot by Remi Jouan, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

No comments: