The dispute between Argentina and Uruguay over the establishment of two pulp mills on the Rio Uruguay River has been resolved with Argentine environmentalists finally lifting their multiyear blockade of an important bridge to Uruguay.
The dispute was a result of the Uruguayan government’s approval in 2003 of two pulp mills (one from the Finnish company Botnia, and the second from the Spanish company Ence) along the Rio Uruguay in the area of Fray Bentos near the city of Gualeguaychù in Argentina. This resulted in the Argentine government and local residents of the city of Gualeguaychù claiming that the mills violated the Transboundary River Treaty signed in 1975. In 2006, environmental activists in Gualeguaychù, concerned about alleged environmental and health impacts, the blocked a bridge between the two countries in protest, which is also one of the most important trade routes in South America.
To solve the conflict, Green Cross Argentina, in cooperation with Green Cross Switzerland, started in 2006 a process of dialogue and information exchange within a multi-stakeholder approach, involving all actors in a constructive dialogue to find sustainable and peaceful solutions. As part of the mediation process, GC Argentina also held regular meetings with stakeholders, NGOs, health professionals and media representatives.
The project also included an environmental impact assessment of the pulp mills to analyze the quality of transboundary air, soil and water in the region. Started in July 2008, the air and water quality analysis showed no contamination in the Gualeguaychù region as a result of the pulp mills. The multi-year mediation work of Green Cross has led to reconciliation between politicians, authorities, local activists and the population on both sides.
Finally, the International Court in the Hague ruled in favour of Uruguay in April 2010, and although the judge did criticize Uruguay for having violated the bilateral agreement with Argentina by not informing the neighbouring country of its decision to construct the pulp mills, it was also stated that Argentina has not been able to demonstrate that the pulp mill operation has any significant environmental impacts.