Programme  OS5a Managing water under conflict situations  abstract 310

Water, environment and pacific settlement of disputes

Author(s): The pulp mills case between Argentina and Uruguay
Author(s): Maria José Cervell Hortal
Assistan professor of Public International Law, University of Murcia, Spain

Keyword(s): transboundary rivers, pulp mills case, pacific settlement of disputes, water, environment

Get Adobe Reader

Session: OS5a Managing water under conflict situations
AbstractMaría José Cervell Hortal
Faculty of Law, C/Santo Cristo 1, 30.001

Murcia (Spain)
Phone: 34 968 36 32 25
Fax: 34 968 36 42 80



TOPIC: Water governance and water security: 30 years after the UN Mar del Plata

Conferencie of 1977
SUBTOPIC: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers

A 1966 Treaty and the

1975 Statute, which plans a specific system of settlement of disputes (art.58-60), regulate the Uruguay River, in the

border between Argentina and Uruguay in part of its route. Accordingly, each party must transfer any dispute to a

Commission created for this purpose (Uruguay River Administration Commission), or, in case of failure, the direct

negotiation, and in last resort, the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

On that grounds Argentina sued Uruguay

on May 4th 2006 before the ICJ, considering that when this State authorized, constructed and commissioned two

pulp mills on the river without prior consultation, it broke the statutory obligations. According to Argentina, the toxic

emissions of the projected plants will have important consequences on the fragile balance of the


The subject referred before the ICJ allows the analysis of various aspects related with the

international rivers, the settlements of dispute and the environment. In first place, they questioned the efficiency of the

methods of settlement of disputes of the bilateral treaties which regulate the international rivers, treaties thought to

solve the majority of common river management problems, but not to face problems derived from water pollution

and economic activities, which are exactly those that have been presented in the last few years. Secondly, it highlights

the need of elaborating, in certain cases, treaties which consider more in detail the solution to these new disputes.

Finally, it defends the idea that, although the flexible methods for the pacific settlement of disputes are welcome,

going to the ICJ will enable the elaboration of an (anxiously waited) general jurisprudence, which will enable an in

depth review of matters not still consolidated in the international law related to the management of the international

rivers, and the relationship between the economic development and the respect for the environment.

The fact

that Argentina has gone to the ICJ, after the River Danube Gabcikovo Nagymaros (1997) joint project , with a new

question related to the international rivers, also confirms the growing role of water as a factor for disputes between


The Court, that rejected the Argentinian request for temporary measures, intended to paralyze the

works (July 2006), such as those in Uruguay, intended to avoid Argentinian civilian protests to block the frontiers

with Uruguay (January 2007), has still not pronounced a resolution on the content, but it is desirable that this

opportunity will allow a statement to be made on the difficult balance between protection of the environment and

development, that is, sustainable development.

  Return up