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Argentina: Cleaning Up the Riachuelo

La Matanza River, better known as El Riachuelo (The Little River) divides the Argentinean capital city Buenos Aires with the rest of the province that shares the same name. El Riachuelo runs through the Boca neighbourhood, one of the most visited by tourists, as it houses Caminito, a famous landmark in the history of Tango. Caminito offers dance and music in the street and it is a very colourful little street. Visiting Buenos Aires, one can imagine listening to an intense performance of a Tango orchestra on a summer night and finishing the evening with a romantic walk by the river. Unfortunately, in reality, this might not be a good idea. This watercourse is the most contaminated in the country, its waters receives industrial waste from the numerous factories along the riverside, especially tanneries.

Photo by FJTU and used under a Creative Commons license http://www.flickr.com/photos/fjtu/2531429872/

Photo by FJTU and used under a Creative Commons license http://www.flickr.com/photos/fjtu/2531429872/

However, not all is lost. The ports of Buenos Aires are welcoming the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace icebreaker that will be supporting the campaign [es] for the cleansing of the river. This ship is arriving from Brazil where it became involved in a similar campaign in the Amazon.

The Arctic Sunrise’s visit represents a form of pressure and a reminder to the general public that after nine months of the National Court resolution for the cleansing of the river, none of the specified steps has been taken [es]. In spite of the lack of action from the authorities and the overdue expected results, Francisco Isla Montoya, an Argentinean blogger expresses some hope in his blog La Communication no es Ingenua [es]:

Hoy los esfuerzos comienzan a dar resultado, hay nuevas generaciones, cambio social y leyes que pretenden resguardar el planeta o al menos intentarlo. Greenpeace, su rompehielos, está en Buenos Aires, esto no es inocente, es la voz de ambientalistas, ecologistas y ciudadanos conscientes de cuidar la casa.

Today we start seeing the results of the effort, there is a new generation, social change, and laws that attempt to protect the planet or at least try. Greenpeace's icebreaker is in Buenos Aires, this is not innocent, it is the voice of the environmentalists, ecologists and citizens conscious of taking care of their house.
Photo by Albริ and used under a Creative Commons license http://www.flickr.com/photos/_alby2_/318242785/

Photo by Albริ and used under a Creative Commons license http://www.flickr.com/photos/_alby2_/318242785/

Hernán Nadal, coordinator for new technologies for Greenpeace, shares in his blog Listao [es] a video of the NGO campaign for the Riachuelo.

A week before the arrival of the Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace opened a telephone line that allows people to give information about industrial waste in the area. According to a note on the blog Protagonistas [es], the data will be used to create a map of contamination in the river basin and would give a better sense of how many industries are responsible for the pollution.

Despite of the inefficiency of the authorities, environmentalists and other conscientious citizens may help bring about the long-awaited result for a river that could return to be what it used to: a place for families to gather, tourists to enjoy and life to blossom.

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