Paraguay

Neighbors denounce environmental destruction in Limpio, Paraguay

This image does not correspond to any natural phenomenon or is caused by sediments or anything of the sort. The bloody red water of the Cerro de Piquete Cue lagoon, in Limpio, Paraguay is the result of toxic liquids drained into the lagoon by Brazilian-owned tannery, WalTrading SA. The company processes bovine animal skins and has been operating next to the lagoon for six months, according to neighbors’ reports.

Shortly after setting up next to the lagoon, WalTrading SA split the lagoon to facilitate transportation of their goods. Prior to the environmental disaster, the lagoon was frequently visited by tourists and served as a fishing spot for locals.  The neighbors of the San Francisco community in Piquete Cue, Limpio, blame the tannery for contaminating the water and air systems and for destroying the ecosystem of the region. Despite protests and warnings, neighbors have told local news that the company has continued irregular operations for the last 4 months. 

 

The Lagoon is Split into two parts; a division built by the tannery to facilitate the transport of their products. Photo, Jorge Saenz.

 

Since the rise of the environmental destruction of the lagoon, neighbors have been actively demonstrating against the contamination of the Laguna Cerro. Locals say their protest gained momentum when actor and activist, Leonardo DiCaprio spread the news internationally by posting  Jorge Saenz’ incredible photography on DiCaprio’s social media channels. 

 

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The Cerro Lagoon in the Paraguayan city of Limpio is sharply divided into two parts: one purple, one blue. One part emits a foul odor, the other doesn’t.? The lagoon was split by construction of an embankment and roadway to carry trucks to and from local factories.? Several months ago, people began noticing that the water had changed on one side of the roadway, and that fish and birds were dying. They went to local environmental authorities who took water samples.? Francisco Ferreira, a technician at the National University Multidisciplinary Lab who took samples, said that the color of the water is due to the presence of heavy metals like chromium, commonly used in the tanning of animal skins to produce leather.? #APPhoto Jorge Saenz @jorgesaenzpy

A post shared by Leonardo DiCaprio (@leonardodicaprio) on

 

The Cerro de Piquete Cue lagoon,was a natural paradise where flora and fauna coexisted. When the tannery settled there and split the lagoon in two, the waters turned red and the smell turned nauseating.

“It is worrisome that this company continues to work and the contamination is on the rise. Six months ago, this was a tourist lagoon and now is being destroyed by the products they throw in the lagoon,” asserts Ruffino Leguizamon, a community resident. 

 

La laguna Cerro de Piquete Cué, en Limpio, Paraguay. The local population demands the immediate closure of the company. Photo Jose Bogado, Ultima Hora.

 

 “The pollution not only affects the water, but also the air we breathe,” affirms Leguizamon. ”When we come home for lunch from work, we are unable to sit outside due to the swarm of flies in our homes coming from the lagoon,” adds Leguizamon, “we are waiting for the authorities to respond and react.” 

 

 

Herminia Meza echoed Leguizamon’s concerns when speaking with ABC news in Paraguay about the impact of the pollution on local tourism: “We used to have tourists come to this lagoon, which helped our local economy. But now it’s been 4-5 months that we’ve been dealing with this problem.” 

 

La laguna Cerro de Piquete Cué, en Limpio, Paraguay. Jorge Saenz’ photos capture the role of the areas’ inhabitants in driving the Paraguayan state to take action. Photo: Jorge Saenz, published in Para Ti.

 

This Friday, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development (MADES) requested the definitive suspension of the company’s activities and is pursuing the support of other government organizations to enforce its definitive closure. MADES  confirmed that the samples taken in some sectors of the lagoon contain a high level of contamination. An investigation of the Waltrading SA tannery in underway. 

 

La laguna Cerro de Piquete Cué, en Limpio, Paraguay. Photographer, Jorge Saenz captured the moment when samples of contaminated water were taken. Published in Para Ti.

 

This past Saturday, August 22nd,  a delegation of technicians and directors of the Ministry of the Environment in Paraguay (MADES), led by its head, Ariel Oviedo, carried out a verification tour around the company WalTrading S.A. MADES has requested the company’s final closure through the courts and is also working on mechanisms for the remediation of damage caused to the lake and its ecosystem.

 

MADES investigating on site yesterday, Saturday, August 22nd, 2020. Photo courtesy, MADES Facebook group.

 

Investigative reports have found toxic disposal of waste, specifically industrial sludge. MADES states on its government site that it is investigating the breaches made by the company and compiling an administrative report that is close to being completed. 

 

Image of the laguna Cerro de Piquete Cué, en Limpio, Paraguay. The contamination of the Laguna Cerro de Limpio is caused by chemicals used to preserve leather. Photo by Jose Bogado.

 

The owner of WalTrading S.A.is also under investigation by the Public Ministry and denies all charges. 

 

 

Technicians from the Tajy Ambiental company have taken  samples from both sectors of the lagoon, in order to determine the concentration of polluting elements. These studies, added to those already carried out by MADES along with CEMIT, which were presented days ago, will determine the adequate treatment for remediation.

MADES plans to enlist the support of the Public Ministry to identify and hold accountable those  responsible for the contamination of the lagoon and to demand compliance with the measures proposed by the environmental authority as well compensation for the damages caused. 

If this does not occur, support will be requested from the binationals, the Ministry of Works or the National Emergency Secretariat, with the necessary budget for the recovery works of the Lagoon, unfortunately the budget allocated for the environment is barely 0.06% of the entire General Budget of the Nation, practically symbolic,” affirmed the minister, Ariel Oviedo.

The environmental entity, MADES,  had requested a budget increase for this year, which would have been destined to the strengthening of sensitive areas of the institution, such as Inspection, which currently only has 8 professionals to cover  the entire country, as well as the Legal Department, operating with 9 investigating judges that must respond to almost 1000 files of environmental crimes.

Commenting on MADES’ Facebook page, Oscar said it best: Ahora si!! Que no les tiemble la mano ante el desastre ambiental que causan empresarios inescrupulosos!! Hoy no se puede tener un lucro sin responsabilidad… Siglo XXI Señores! ??

Translation: “This is the twenty-first century,  sirs, we can no longer continue placing profit ahead of responsibility. Environmental disasters are caused by unscrupulous businesses!!”

Featured Image: La laguna Cerro de Piquete Cué, en Limpio, Paraguay. Photo’s aerial view by Jorge Saenz, APNews staff in Paraguay.In his Instagram page, Saenz wrote: “The pandemic creates all sorts of situations. Waltrading S.A. Contaminates everything it wants … already in 2017 thousands of fish died in the Chaco by another one of its tanneries.”