Matanza Riachuelo lawsuit (re Argentina)

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In July 2004 a group of residents living in “Villa Inflamble”, one of the worst-polluted shanty towns in the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, filed a lawsuit against the Argentinian Government, Government of the city of Buenos Aires, and 44 businesses for damages to their health suffered as a result of the pollution of Matanza-Riachuelo River. 

In June 2006 the Argentinian Supreme Court agreed to hear the case as a collective action and ordered the defendants to submit an integrated plan for cleaning the river basin.  Subsequently the court admitted the National Ombudsman’s Office, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), the Neighbourhood Association of La Boca and Greenpeace Argentina as interested parties in the case.  The court also established an authority to carry out the improvements and works planned for the river basin.  This authority is the Autoridad de Cuenca Matanza Riachuelo (ACUMAR).  Its establishment harmonised the different bureaucratic agencies previously tasked with protecting the river basin.   

In July 2008 the Argentinian Supreme Court made a determination of the federal government’s responsibility as well as that of the city and province of Buenos Aires for the prevention and reparation of environmental damages in this watershed.  The ruling charged the governments with three duties: (a) improve the quality of life for the inhabitants within the basin, (b) remediate the basin’s ecological damage and (c) prevent further contamination.  The court did not issue a decision with regard to the responsibility of the 44 defendant businesses.  The Supreme Court also decided to involve the NGOs who had been active in the case – Greenpeace Argentina, FARN, CELS, the Neighbourhood Association of La Boca and the National Ombudsman.  These groups were given the allied role of patrolling the river and surrounding areas for pollution and advising ACUMAR of breaches. 

- [PDF] “Can litigation clean rivers? Assessing the policy impact of “the Mendoza case” in Argentina”, Kristi Staveland-Sæter, CMI Brief, May 2012
- “Progress in River Clean-Up Praised – With Reservations”, Marcela Valente, IPS, 8 Feb 2012
- “Troubled Waters: the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin”, Lindsey Hoshaw, Argentina Independent, 23 May 2008
- “Riachuelo Factories Must Clean Up or Close Down”, Marcela Valente, IPS, 6 Sep 2006
- “A roadmap against pollution”, Marcela Valente, IPS, 8 Jul 2006

- [español] Autoridad de Cuenca Matanza Riachuelo (ACUMAR): El Caso Cuenca Matanza-Riachuelo [includes links to court documents, available in Spanish only]
- Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN): The Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin Case Summary
- [español] FARN: [PDF] El Riachuelo en su hora más crítica, Andrés Nápoli, marzo 2013

  - Supreme Court of Argentina: [PDF] Mendoza, Beatriz Silvia and others v/ the National State and others regarding damages suffered (injuries resulting from the environmental contamination of the Matanza-Riachuelo River), 8 Jul 2008 [English translation of decision]

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Article
28 November 2013

How about a SLAPP for your trouble?

Author: Sudeep Chakravarti, Livemint.com (India)

Strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP, is one of several retaliatory mechanisms increasingly used against defenders of human rights…The Resource Centre discusses these and other matters and provides a global situation report in its 2013 annual briefing on corporate legal accountability…Its…list of case studies…contains recent and ongoing accusations and legal debates of various kinds of human rights violations…attributed to a total of 52 companies across the world. It is of little surprise that human rights lawyers and activists would get SLAPPed about, as it were, or face the legal weight of businesses that far outweigh their own. The stakes, both in perception and finance, are immense…[T]he briefing adds directional value by flagging issues that it expects will affect this space…This is happening, and will happen, in countries where infractions and crimes are perceived as being committed; and in countries where such businesses are headquartered or invested…[Refers to adidas, Anvil Mining (part of China Minmetals), BASF, China Minmetals, Daimler, Danzer, Dow Chemical, Ford, Lonmin, Shell, Tate & Lyle, Union Carbide (part of Dow), Vedanta Resources, Vinci]

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Article
1 July 2013

Case profile: Matanza Riachuelo lawsuit (re Argentina)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre case profile for lawsuit against 44 businesses over damages to their health suffered as a result of the pollution of Matanza-Riachuelo River.]

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Lawsuit
30 April 2013

Matanza Riachuelo lawsuit (re Argentina)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In July 2004 a group of residents living in “Villa Inflamble”, one of the worst-polluted shanty towns in the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, filed a lawsuit against the Argentinian Government, Government of the city of Buenos Aires, and 44 businesses for damages to their health suffered as a result of the pollution of Matanza-Riachuelo River. 

In June 2006 the Argentinian Supreme Court agreed to hear the case as a collective action and ordered the defendants to submit an integrated plan for cleaning the river basin.  Subsequently the court admitted the National Ombudsman’s Office, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), the Neighbourhood Association of La Boca and Greenpeace Argentina as interested parties in the case.  The court also established an authority to carry out the improvements and works planned for the river basin.  This authority is the Autoridad de Cuenca Matanza Riachuelo (ACUMAR).  Its establishment harmonised the different bureaucratic agencies previously tasked with protecting the river basin.   

In July 2008 the Argentinian Supreme Court made a determination of the federal government’s responsibility as well as that of the city and province of Buenos Aires for the prevention and reparation of environmental damages in this watershed.  The ruling charged the governments with three duties: (a) improve the quality of life for the inhabitants within the basin, (b) remediate the basin’s ecological damage and (c) prevent further contamination.  The court did not issue a decision with regard to the responsibility of the 44 defendant businesses.  The Supreme Court also decided to involve the NGOs who had been active in the case – Greenpeace Argentina, FARN, CELS, the Neighbourhood Association of La Boca and the National Ombudsman.  These groups were given the allied role of patrolling the river and surrounding areas for pollution and advising ACUMAR of breaches. 

- [PDF] “Can litigation clean rivers? Assessing the policy impact of “the Mendoza case” in Argentina”, Kristi Staveland-Sæter, CMI Brief, May 2012
- “Progress in River Clean-Up Praised – With Reservations”, Marcela Valente, IPS, 8 Feb 2012
- “Troubled Waters: the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin”, Lindsey Hoshaw, Argentina Independent, 23 May 2008
- “Riachuelo Factories Must Clean Up or Close Down”, Marcela Valente, IPS, 6 Sep 2006
- “A roadmap against pollution”, Marcela Valente, IPS, 8 Jul 2006

- [español] Autoridad de Cuenca Matanza Riachuelo (ACUMAR): El Caso Cuenca Matanza-Riachuelo [includes links to court documents, available in Spanish only]
- Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN): The Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin Case Summary
- [español] FARN: [PDF] El Riachuelo en su hora más crítica, Andrés Nápoli, marzo 2013

  - Supreme Court of Argentina: [PDF] Mendoza, Beatriz Silvia and others v/ the National State and others regarding damages suffered (injuries resulting from the environmental contamination of the Matanza-Riachuelo River), 8 Jul 2008 [English translation of decision]

Article
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Author: Greenpeace Argentina

Después de la denuncia pública de Greenpeace…[contra] la empresa Eternit [parte de Etex Group] por disposición ilegal de residuos de amianto (asbesto), sustancia altamente cancerígena…el Concejal de La Matanza Edgardo Lobos… presentará una acción judicial contra la empresa...De acuerdo al informe “Residuos de Asbestos en la Cuenca Matanza Riachuelo”...los residuos de asbestos se encuentran esparcidos…sin ninguna medida de seguridad y control a escasos metros de zonas urbanas...."Este basural tóxico evidencia una vez más que la calamitosa situación ambiental y social de la cuenca, no se reduce únicamente a la contaminación de los cursos de agua del Riachuelo, sino que se expande sobre todo el territorio afectando la salud…de la población" manifestó…Greenpeace.

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Article
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Author: El Clarín [Argentina]

El Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación, Eduardo Mondino, y las cinco ONG que controlan la marcha del plan para sanear el Riachuelo le pidieron al juez de la causa que investigue si la empresa estatal AySA está volcando efluentes contaminantes en la Cuenca. El motivo es que las mediciones de agua en el lugar...mostraron una muy alta concentración de bacterias coliformes y metales pesados como plomo, cromo y níquel. El ombudsman le explicó a Clarín: "...Le pedimos al juez que investigue, porque podrían estar cometiendo el delito de contaminación". Fuentes de la empresa respondieron: "...en la empresa no utilizamos metales pesados...".

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Article
10 September 2008

Argentine Environment Authority Cracks Down on Corporate Contamination with Massive Police Force

Author: Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA)

The Argentine National Environmental Authority (SAYDS), with over 40 inspection teams in 50 vehicles, accompanied by 100 national guardsman, and bus load of federal and city police, carried out a surprise-raid on 34 contaminating industries, in the Matanza-Riachuelo river basin, to verify industrial compliance with environmental laws and norms. The crackdown on industries which included leather tanneries, food packing plants, vehicle junk-yards, and chemical producers, was accompanied by a court order...two companies...were immediately ordered shut due to findings of infraganti violations...including direct toxic spillages into water ways...placing the lives and health of workers and the community in danger.

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Article
14 September 2006

A Flammable Neighbourhood [Argentina]

Author: Marcela Valente, IPS

Three thousand people live below the smoke stacks of petroleum refineries and alongside chemical storage sites, among rubbish and debris, and foul bodies of water, in "Villa Inflamable", a slum along the banks of the Matanza-Riachuelo river, which runs across the Argentine capital...The entire 2,240-square-kilometer basin is polluted...the 3,000 companies located in the area have severely harmed the river. But the lower portion is in the most critical condition...144 people who two years ago filed a lawsuit for environmental damage against the government and the 44 companies of the nearby industrial complex, known as the Polo Petroquímico Dock Sud. The case reached the Supreme Court of Justice, which in June issued a ruling requiring the government and the firms to present a clean-up plan...There is only one study, by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, according to which 50 percent of the children ages seven to 11 in Villa Inflamable have traces of lead in their blood and 10 percent with chlorine in their urine. [refers to Union Carbide (part of Dow)]

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Article
8 July 2006

A route map against pollution [Argentina]

Author: Marcela Valente, IPS

[Original article in Spanish. Title translation, and following summary of the article's key points, provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]
The river Matanza-Riachuelo has been the most polluted for more than a century, but in the last decades the contamination has turned critical. On April, the National Audit Office (Auditoría General de la Nación) warned of a "health catastrophe" and the national obdusman alerted twice on the lack of public policies about this issue. The river could start to be cleaned up due to an innovative ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice which is already considered a landmark of Latinamerican environmental law. In response to a lawsuit from local people affected by the contamination, the court ordered 44 companies to report on the discharges they throw to the river - among them are Shell & Mercedes Benz. It also ordered the state to draft a management plan. Around the river, more than 3.5 million people live and more than 3500 companies operate.

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Article
26 June 2006

Messy, not Messi [Argentina]

Author: Buenos Aires Herald

The Supreme Court's call on national, provincial and municipal authorities to present a plan for cleaning up the Riachuelo within 30 days...On the one hand, it has every appearance of pioneering jurisprudence, advancing early in the 21st century to add environmental rights to a concept of civil and human rights which has been in constant expansion...the ruling holds the private sector accountable quite apart from the aforementioned authorities. But on the other hand, the timing of this ruling (within a fortnight of the...hearings in The Hague to settle Argentina's pulp mill dispute with Uruguay) looks suspiciously political...Whatever the motives behind the Supreme Court initiative, the right course of action must always be applauded...At least five million people live within the watershed of the Riachuelo and the myriad health hazards emanating from its mucky waters hardly bear thinking about. Yet the Supreme Court needs to proceed beyond juridical...the government plan demanded by the court [should not] be a mere declaration of intent...

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