After three weeks in South America, I feel like I finally have time to blog again. After arriving in Cordoba, I met my roommate for the first time, moved into our temporary apartment, and began to get acclimated to my surroundings in Cordoba. Because we have no physical office space, my first day on the job started with a breakfast introducing me to CEDHA. CEDHA stands for the Centro de Derechos Humanos y Ambiente, which translates to the Center for Human Rights and the Environment. It is an NGO based in Cordoba, Argentina that serves as a watchdog entity for violations of human rights and environmental laws. They also are responsible for lobbying efforts in support of more rigorous protections for the environment and human rights.
I will be working on the Mining, Environment, and Human Rights project. In a mineral-rich country like Argentina, mining has become a huge issue. In hopes of generating revenue, the government has traditionally been welcoming to foreign mining companies. These companies enter Argentina and often times bring a number of environmental and human rights issues with them. Most mining is conducted near or in the Andes, and the communities of people who have made these areas their homes are generally forced out to make room for companies from all over the world. Furthermore, mining generally requires large amounts of water and chemicals. This results in the depletion of water resources while chemical contaminants leach into the reserves that remain. CEDHA creates reports and lobbies for more stringent environmental regulations of the mining industry.
Argentina is also home to the world’s first glacier protection law, called the National Glacier Protection Act (NGPA). This law prohibits mining in areas where glaciers or permafrost is present. In their planning reports, many companies deny the presence of glaciers or permafrost in their proposed mining sites. CEDHA, however, is in the process of creating a database using Google Earth technology to log the coordinates of all glaciers in the region. This database has been very useful in proving NGPA violations. When a violation is discovered, CEDHA contacts the company in attempts to change the proposed mining site. When the company does not comply, CEDHA takes legal action, employing a number of different avenues including OECD National Contact Points and CSR Ombudsman claims. This summer, I will be working on these cases.
Additionally, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it more commonly known, has slowly been making its way into Argentina. Fracking is an extraction process that uses pressurized liquid to recover natural gas and petroleum. Fracking has already proven responsible for a number of detrimental effects on the environment and public health in the United States. One of my other responsibilities this summer will be to develop a paper discussing the state of the fracking industry in Argentina, potential legal remedies, demonstrated effects in other countries, and models for legislative intervention. It seems like it will be a packed summer, but I am definitely excited to work in these areas.