CEIL   02670
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
capítulos de libros
The Social and Ecological Dimensions of a Decentralisation Process: Participation by Social Movements in the Sustainable Management of Urban Solid Refuse in Buenos Aires
Stephan Decentralisation, Social Movements and Natural Resource Management
Geographia Bernesia
Lugar: Berna, Suiza; Año: 2007;
One of the most serious environmental problems in big cities is waste management. Every day tons of industrial and domestic garbage are generated, involving serious risks for public health and urban environmental balance[1]. In the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires city[2] (AMBA), rubbish collection, treatment and sanitation is in charge of CEAMSE[3], an state society. CEAMSE was created in 1977 with the purpose of implementing a new system for urban residues management, based on sanitary fillings. The fillings came to replace the former waste treatment, which consisted in residues burning in public furnaces and domiciliary ovens. This procedure was considered very unhealthy because of the high level of pollutant gases and soot that generated (Prignano, 1998; Suárez, 1998). CEAMSE creation in the context of last military dictatorship also implied an authoritarian centralisation of waste management for AMBA area. Before that, in Buenos Aires surroundings the municipalities had been in charge of that activity, but the 9111/78 provincial act obliged them to dispose all the collected residues exclusively in CEAMSE´s sanitary fillings. This act also forbade every recycling activity and any other kind of residues treatment (Gorbán, 2005). Furthermore, from the beginning CEAMSE´s directory is constituted by Buenos Aires city´s and Buenos Aires province´s governments representatives[4] in equal proportions. In this frame municipalities are not represented at all. Nevertheless, they are responsible for residues collecting and transportation, activities they have transferred to private companies. CEAMSE has also subcontracted sanitary filling daily inspection and control tasks, allowing a rising intervention of private interests in "waste business" (Suarez, 1998). Another aspect to be consider for our work is that one of the explicit objectives of CEAMSE creation was to finish with cartoneros and quemeros[5] activities. As a matter of fact, the policy intended to end with any informal waste selection, classification and selling activity. In effect, residues commercialisation had always been an important subsistence resource for many poor families in AMBA (Gorban, 2005; Suárez, 1998; Schamber and Suárez, 2002). Nowadays, 28 years after its implementation, this policy for residues treatment shows its limits to tackle the ecological and social problem waste management involves. Its efficiency to solve up waste deposition problems is indeed under public debate. On one side, sanitary fillings are close to its saturation point. Moreover, illegal dumps have not been eradicated due to the high costs of residues collection and transport for municipalities, which increase every year (Suarez, 1998).  Besides,  ecological conscience about the risks for population health and well-being that bear the current system of residues management has been strengthen thanks to the environmentalists organisations action. On the other side, the problem is not only environmental, but social. The authoritarian attempt of military government in the late 70´s to eradicate cartoneros´ and quemeros´ activities soon proved to be a failure.  Furthermore, in the context of the socio-economic crisis that Argentina faces during the last years and the consequent growth of extreme poverty, the number of families surviving from rubbish selling has increased. At the same time, cartoneros and quemeros started to organise themselves, with foreign and national NGOs support, both as recycling workers´ cooperatives and social movements. So, as a result of governmental and CEAMSE´s intention to establish regulations on waste management without considerating these groups´ interests and needs, social conflict has incremented. This process of social organisation and the high waste recuperation capability these groups reached preoccupied the private sectors involved in residues transport and deposition (Schamber and Suárez, 2002). In effect, the impacts of their public demonstrations positioned cartoneros and quemeros movements as social actors which could not be excluded in any negotiation related to waste management transformation. Therefore any change in current policy should take into account not only the environmental aspects of the problem but its social connotations as well. This situation introduces the political dimension of the problem. Since waste management involves such a multiplicity of actors and conflicts, governmental agencies are obliged to reach a balance among their different perspectives. In the frame of the lack of legitimacy of traditional representative institutions, every step needs to be measured and carefully negotiated. However, social movements seem to be the more critical actor to consider, since their repertory of action includes open conflict and their low degree of institutionalisation rend difficult to establish negotiation strategies in the long term. In this scenario, Buenos Aires province government is promoting a decentralisation policy, "Sin Desperdicio"[6] program, which primary objective is to generate a "social management" of waste treatment. This also implies a new way to address the environmental problem of residues disposal: recycling the material for industrial use.   Thus, this program involves the development of "social plants"[7] for urban solid waste (USW) selection and classification, financed in cooperation with the national Ministry of Social Development[8] and built with the technical support of CEAMSE. The program intend to encourage productive networks with municipalities and social organisations to manage the plants. In the social plants there is foreseen the classification- for its later commercialisation- of such elements as plastic, pasteboard, role, glass and aluminium. These activities will be accomplished by cartoneros and quemeros, in an attempt to attain their social inclusion. The plants are storehouses endowed with a conveyor belt (where classification tasks take place) and an hydraulic press for recycled material compacting. Only the refuses of the process would be buried on sanitary fillings. To contribute with organic products deposition the plants will also have rotary filters to process them. The present article focuses in the process of negotiation and decision making about the setting of one of these social plants, managed by a poor unemployed workpeople (PUW) movement[9] that we are going to call "21 de septiembre"[10].  The movement is organising the population who lives around the main sanitary filling of CEAMSE in order to constitute a “network of neighbourhoods” to participate in "Sin Desperdicios" program.  [1] In the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires city, 5,5 million tons of residues are annually buried, which represents the management of 470.000 tons of urban solid refuse a month. Source: CEAMSE. http://www.estrucplan.com.ar/Secciones/Organismos/ceamse/CEAMSE.asp. [2] This area comprise Buenos Aires City and its nearer nineteen districts of Buenos Aires Province. Buenos Aires is Argentina´s capitol city. A federal district since 1880 it became an autonomous city in 1996. Buenos Aires province, on the other side, is the most important administrative district in Argentina. [3] Coordinación Ecológica Área Metropolitana Sociedad del Estado (Metropolitan Area Ecological Coordination State Society). [4] Up to 1996 Buenos Aires´ city major was designed by the president. After a Constitution reformulation , now  authorities are elected directly by its citizens. That is to say that national government was somehow represented by the city´s directors in the past. [5] There are two profiles of poor workers related with waste selling: "cartoneros", who dedicate themselves to rubbish collection in the street, and "quemeros", who gather waste material from the “sanitary fillings” and illegal dumps. [6] "Nothing wasted" program. [7] These plants have been called “social” in opposition to the private ones that are going to be build. [8] Ministerio de Desarrollo Social de la Nación. [9] The PUW organisations constitute one of the most important social movements emerged in Argentina by end of 90s. They are called organizaciones piqueteras in Spanish because of their main protest resource: the streets and highways blocking (piquete). They denounce the effects of neo-liberal policies on the poor and impoverished sectors of society as well as the lack of accountability of traditional political representatives. As a result of their importance as political actors they manage about 8% of the social care directed to poor unemployed people (through what is called planes socials -"social plans"-). One of their main characteristics is to be territorially referred, so the “neighbourhood” means not only the place in which they live, but their space of political action. [10] The names of this organisation and later mentioned NGOs are not real, to accomplish with the confidentiality commitment assumed with them.