Argentina demands Botnia abandon their pulp mill undertaking in Uruguay
Botnia: Construction work continues as planned
According to news agency Reuters, the Argentine government has called for the stopping of the pulp mill projects by the Finnish Botnia and the Spanish Ence groups in Uruguay.
The Argentines feel the mills would pollute the water in the river on the border between the two countries and spoil the air in the region.
Botnia CEO Erkki Varis argues the demands are political and are not based on scientific and technical facts. Varis says the work will continue as planned.
Botnia is building a gigantic million-ton pulp mill near the city of Fray Bentos on the banks of the River Uruguay. The mill is scheduled for opening in two years' time.
Ence, in turn, has planned for a 500,000-ton pulp mill in the same region for some time now, but the Spaniards have not really advanced in their project.
On the opposite bank of the river, the Argentine city of Gualeguaychu has become the hotbed of demonstrators, Reuters reports. Students gathered in front of the City Hall shout: "Clean water! Clean air! 'No' to paper companies!"
Demonstrators fear the mills would pollute the water and air with super-toxins that would kill the fish and the birds and contaminate the fields.
Argentina has a slight chance of slamming the brakes on the Botnia project, as part of the mill's funding originates from the World Bank. Argentina and Uruguay have set up a joint committee to evaluate the mill's impact on the environment, and Argentina has requested discontinuation of the project until the committee has delivered its report.
Varis, who believes the pulp mill is merely being used as a weapon with an eye to October's local elections on the Argentine side, does not see how Argentina's one vote would make a difference in the World Bank.
The Uruguayan government and the people alike support the undertaking almost unanimously, as it will provide the indigent country with jobs and prosperity. The forestry industry in the country is based on eucalyptus plantations.
Botnia has distanced itself from the political discussion and left the government in Montevideo to battle it out with Argentina.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Metsä-Botnia to build massive pulp factory in Uruguay (8.3.2005)
Botnia Uruguay Project