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Water, environment and pacific settlement of disputes

Author(s): The pulp mills case between Argentina and Uruguay
Congress: 2008
Author(s): Maria José Cervell Hortal
Assistan professor of Public International Law, University of Murcia, Spain

Keyword(s): transboundary rivers, pulp mills case, pacific settlement of disputes, water, environment
AbstractMaría José Cervell Hortal Faculty of Law, C/Santo Cristo 1, 30.001 Murcia (Spain) Phone: 34 968 36 32 25 Fax: 34 968 36 42 80 cervell@um.es MODE OF PRESENTATION: Oral TOPIC: Water governance and water security: 30 years after the UN Mar del Plata Conferencie of 1977 SUBTOPIC: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers A 1966 Treaty and the 1975 Statute, which plans a specific system of settlement of disputes (art.58-60), regulate the Uruguay River, in the border between Argentina and Uruguay in part of its route. Accordingly, each party must transfer any dispute to a Commission created for this purpose (Uruguay River Administration Commission), or, in case of failure, the direct negotiation, and in last resort, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) On that grounds Argentina sued Uruguay on May 4th 2006 before the ICJ, considering that when this State authorized, constructed and commissioned two pulp mills on the river without prior consultation, it broke the statutory obligations. According to Argentina, the toxic emissions of the projected plants will have important consequences on the fragile balance of the ecosystem. The subject referred before the ICJ allows the analysis of various aspects related with the international rivers, the settlements of dispute and the environment. In first place, they questioned the efficiency of the methods of settlement of disputes of the bilateral treaties which regulate the international rivers, treaties thought to solve the majority of common river management problems, but not to face problems derived from water pollution and economic activities, which are exactly those that have been presented in the last few years. Secondly, it highlights the need of elaborating, in certain cases, treaties which consider more in detail the solution to these new disputes. Finally, it defends the idea that, although the flexible methods for the pacific settlement of disputes are welcome, going to the ICJ will enable the elaboration of an (anxiously waited) general jurisprudence, which will enable an in depth review of matters not still consolidated in the international law related to the management of the international rivers, and the relationship between the economic development and the respect for the environment. The fact that Argentina has gone to the ICJ, after the River Danube Gabcikovo Nagymaros (1997) joint project , with a new question related to the international rivers, also confirms the growing role of water as a factor for disputes between States. The Court, that rejected the Argentinian request for temporary measures, intended to paralyze the works (July 2006), such as those in Uruguay, intended to avoid Argentinian civilian protests to block the frontiers with Uruguay (January 2007), has still not pronounced a resolution on the content, but it is desirable that this opportunity will allow a statement to be made on the difficult balance between protection of the environment and development, that is, sustainable development.
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