Paraguay Floods – Asunción Faces Environmental Disaster as River Threatens to Flood Toxic Dump

Levels of the Paraguay River in the country’s capital Asunción currently stand at over 7.20 metres. The river has already flooded parts of the city’s Cateura landfill site, “El vertedero de Cateura”. Garbage from the dump can be seen scattered across the surface of the Paraguay River. Color ABC reported the situation on 22 June 2014.

Refuse and waste from the Cateura dump floating on the swollen Paraguay river, June 2014. Photo: Color ABC
Refuse and waste from the Cateura dump floating on the swollen Paraguay river, June 2014. Photo: Color ABC

There is now a threat of flood waters reaching a pool of toxic waste and sewage situated next to the Cateura dump. Should river levels rise further, flood water could inundate the pool of approximately 40 to 50 million litres of toxic waste, spreading the polluted liquid and carrying it downstream in the Paraguay River. The threat has prompted politicians into taking action, and yesterday decalred a state of environmental emergency.

State environmental chief Marina Cristina Morales said the Paraguay river is at 7.20 metres – around 2 metres above normal levels and 2.8 metres below the levels of the pool. River levels aren’t expected to return to normal until August.

Justice Minister Dr. Antonio Fretes and leader of the Environmental Commission of Deputies, Pastor Vera Bejarano, discussing the situation of the landfill. The toxic pool can be seen (surrounded by fencing) below them. The flood waters of the Paraguay River can be seen just beyond the pool's edge. Photo: http://www.pj.gov.py
Justice Minister Dr. Antonio Fretes and leader of the Environmental Commission of Deputies, Pastor Vera Bejarano, discussing the situation of the landfill. The toxic pool can be seen (surrounded by fencing) below them. The flood waters of the Paraguay River can be seen just beyond the pool’s edge. Photo: http://www.pj.gov.py

Environmental Catastrophe With International Consequences

Member of Parliament and leader of the committee of Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment, Pastor Vera Bejarano said that if the river waters mix with the toxic residues it could lead to an “environmental catastrophe with international consequences.” The river forms the country’s border with Argentina.

Senate Declares State of Environmental Emergency

As a response to the threat, yesterday the Paraguayan Senate ratified a declaration by the House of Representatives on Wednesday 02 July 2014 and unanimously decided to declare a state of environmental emergency in the landfill of Asunción ( Cateura) and its vicinity to the danger of contamination by the flooding of the Paraguay River. More resources and manpower will be made available in preventing the river flooding into the contaminated area, and hopefully a permanent solution can be found.

The bill gives power to the Secretary of Environment (SEAM), the Municipality of Asunción and the Attorney General to carry out flood mitigation and “develop immediate action to remedy the situation by taking measures conducive to avoiding environmental damage environmental nature”.

The Commission of Ecology, Natural Resources and Environment and Works, Utilities and Communications of the House will be monitoring the situation and the mitigation work.

Thousands Still Displaced by Floods

As many as 75,000 people remain displaced from their homes in Asunción alone, and between 230,000 to 300,000 have been displaced by floods across the country.

 

Sources: Ultima Hora; Star Telegram; pj.gov.py; La Nacion; Color ABC