PARAGUAY – ENVIRONMENTAL OVERVIEW COMMENTARY
Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay, is one of two countries in South America that is completely landlocked; the country is found in the centre of the continent surrounded by Argentina to the south, Bolivia to the north and Brazil to the east. It is divided by the Paraguay River into two similar sized regions: the oriental (Paraneña) to the southeast and the occidental (Chaco Boreal region) to the northwest. The Chaco, which is bounded to the east by the Paraguay and Parana Rivers, is an alluvial sedimentary plain that hosts arid subtropical forests and savannah that are largely uninhabited.. The Paraneña region is occupied by hills, mountains, grasslands and tropical forests, with many rivers and streams which flow south into Argentina.
The fauna of this country is extensive with a rich variety. There are 200 species of fish, over 600 species of birds, and over 150 types of mammals. Animals include the jaguar (especially numerous in the Chaco), wild boar, capybara, deer, armadillo, anteater, fox, brown wolf and tapir. Paraguay’s watercourses have an abundance of crocodiles, and the boa constrictor thrives in the west of the country. The carnivorous piranha is common. The vegetation, like the rainfall, is concentrated in the oriental part of the country where broadleaf, urunday, cedron, curupay and lapacho trees are found. The climate is described as subtropical in the Paraneña region and tropical in the Chaco.
While the Paraguayan government has taken measures to reduce deforestation in the country, it still remains a key environmental issue, particularly in the Atlantic Forest region of the country. Water pollution is also a problem.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATION
Law No.294/1993 (Law) pertaining to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and its Regulation, Decree 14281/1996 (Reg.), are the primary sources of regulation pertaining to the EIA process in Paraguay. The Department of Environmental Management (Dirección General de Gestión Ambiental (DOA)), which forms part of the Environment Secretariat (SEAM) an autonomous agency connected to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería), is the authority responsible for reviewing Environmental Impact Statements (EISs, or DIAs in Spanish).
Pursuant to Article 1 of the Law, an EIA is required for any work or activity that will have a positive or negative result, direct or indirect, on the environment, including health, personal safety, habits and customs, cultural heritage or livelihoods. According to Article 7(f) of the Law, mining projects require an EIA and, according to Article 5.4 of the Decree, the following activities in particular are subject to an EIA process:
- Extraction Operations (non-metallic): where the production involves (A) the removal or movement of more than 10,000 cubic metres; (B) operations within 300 metres of a river; (C) operations on a slope that has an angle greater than 10%; (D) operations within the vicinity of indigenous communities; or (E) operations within two kilometres of a town with more than 1,000 inhabitants;
- Exploration or Exploitation (metallic): all such operations require an EIA process.
Any person or entity that proposes such an activity must present to the DOA a basic environmental questionnaire, which contains information as to project type; any alternatives to the project; the total investment to be made; the technologies to be used; the tonnes of material to be processed per year; and various other types of information. Where an EIS is mandatory or requested, the DOA will set out the terms of reference for the study.
The EIA will be made public within 15 days of its submission. All members of the public may submit comments, but particular reference is made to comments having a scientific or commercial nature. The Regulation has helpful guidance as to what the “public” may consist of in a particular case; the meaning is to be set out in the terms of reference having regard to the “area of influence” of the project; the area of influence is taken as the hydrographic basin in which the project is located (Art. 11, Reg.). Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not a public meeting or hearing is called rests with the DOA (Art. 16(4), Reg.).
When completed, the DOA has 90 days to review the EIS. If no response is given, the presumption arises that the EIS has been approved (Art. 15, Reg.). The DOA may reject the EIS (in whole or in part); accept the EIS with or without conditions; or return the EIS for correction or rectification (Art. 17, Reg.). The DIA (or environmental approval) will have a maximum life of two years; it must then be reassessed and reissued through a new EIA or the modification of the existing one (Art. 17, Reg.). In the case of rejection, the mining operator may appeal the DOA’s decision before the Deputy Minister of Environmental and Natural Resources and, if sustained, a further appeal may be made to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Chpt VII, Reg.).