U.S. Water News Online
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The World Court will rule on
whether to order an immediate halt to construction of two pulp mills
that Argentina claims will pollute the river that forms its border
The dispute has for months strained relations between the
neighbors, sparking blockades by angry Argentinean protesters of
bridges over the Uruguay River and a demonstration by a bikini-clad
Argentinean woman at a summit in Vienna between EU and Latin American
Meanwhile, thousands of Uruguayans have rallied in support of the
$1.9 billion (euro1.5 billion) project, which will create 600 jobs
and boost their country's exports by 15 percent.
The Hague-based International Court of Justice could take years to
issue a final ruling on the legality of the mills, but Argentina
pleaded last month for its 14 judges to order a building halt while
it weighs its judgment. The U.N. court's rulings are final and
binding, but are not always obeyed.
Argentina wants more thorough environmental impact assessments to
be carried out before the mills are built.
Uruguay says the mills -- the biggest foreign investment project
in the country's history -- are being built to the highest
international standards and will not contaminate the Uruguay River.
Argentina claims Uruguay violated a 1975 treaty covering the
1,000-mile river's management when it approved the pulp mills. The
area is home to 150 species of fish and 400 bird species.
The mills, a joint venture by Spain's Grupo Empresarial ENCE,
S.A., and Finland's Oy Metsa-Botnia AB and Kymmene Corp., would make
1.4 million tons of pulp a year and help Uruguay's recovery from a
2002 economic crisis. Uruguay has temporarily halted work on the
mills but says further delays to the project would deal the country's
economy a catastrophic blow.
Uruguay is building the mills in Fray Bentos, a town of some
23,000 people about 15 miles from Gualeguaychu, an Argentine tourist
resort with 80,000 residents. The area is about 125 miles northeast
of Buenos Aires.
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