Justice and environmental change in Buenos Aires. A case study of the environmental remediation of the Matanza-Riachuelo basin

Gabriela Merlinsky

Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Matanza-Riachuelo Basin, home to one-third of Buenos Aires’s inhabitants, is a territory characterized for its deregulated industries, lack of sanitation and scarce water supply. Gradually deteriorated throughout the past decades, it has become a symbol of the kinship between urban marginality and environmental vulnerability.

In 2008, Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled against the government in a case filed by citizens who denounced the perilous condition of the Basin, and ordered it to carry out an environmental cleanup in order to repair the damage and improve the quality of life of the population. However, several of the policies undertaken have paved the way for territorial conflicts, especially one that aims to open up a road all along the polluted riverbank, where many of the city’s overpopulated slums are located.

The political-ecological examination of the urbanization process in Matanza-Riachuelo river basin reveals the contradictory nature of the process of socio-environmental change and shows the central role of the real estate market which, by concentrating its investment in affluent areas increases the vulnerability of territories with high environmental degradation

The article has a twofold objective: 1) to identify the different positions of actors involved in resource management in the CMR, pointing to the main metropolitan environmental governance problems; 2)

to examine the consequences of the implementation of this policy over the population’s expectations and life conditions. By analyzing the role played by social organizations and state agencies, we will discuss the implications of environmental recovery on the metropolitan policy.

Through an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the fields of law, geography, sociology and environmental sciences, the presentation develops a context analysis and case study from statistical secondary sources, analysis of judicial sentences, interviews to key informants and observation reports of judicial public hearings.