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Environmental management

Policy objectives
The strategy and its instruments

The preceding analyses clearly identifies the need for Uruguay to formulate an environmental policy and to provide the institutional support necessary to meet its development goals and improve the quality of life of its citizens. Such a policy would advocate explicit program objectives and these, in turn, would require a strategy comprised of specific instruments and activities.

Policy objectives

The ultimate purpose of an environmental policy is to guide development so as to achieve a satisfactory quality of life for the people of Uruguay, and to make that development sustainable, just and equitable. Within these broad goals, the following objectives are proposed:

· Obtain sufficient information on national ecosystems and culture to move toward sustainable development. The natural ecosystems of Uruguay are now fully altered and are heavily exploited. Sustainable development will require changes in how both natural and human resources are used. Science and technology-and the information they provide-are fundamental to the process. The generation of information; the transfer and adoption of technology; and, the proper use of these, are required to support a well designed environmental policy.

· Advertise Uruguayan products. Uruguay, with its small domestic market, requires policies that will guide growth and development within regional and international markets. The more-developed countries produce basic commodities, particularly foodstuffs, through a high degree of ecosystem alteration. However, some economically powerful sectors demand natural products free from contamination. Naturally produced goods are scarce, have high market demand and command premium prices. Many of these can be provided by Uruguay.

· Conserve biodiversity including genetic information. The natural ecosystems of Uruguay have shown an unusual capacity for sustained production. Conservation and investigation of the less altered ecosystems-especially grasslands-can help define new technologies to intensify livestock production and support other development alternatives. Wetland, forest and coastal conservation, for example, may require their expropriation on behalf of the State or incentives to the owner. Management could be done by specialized public or private organizations.

· Eradicate poverty. Important sectors of the population live in extreme poverty. The capacity of the nation, including its capacity to save; its levels of development investment; the quality and quantity of urban and rural infrastructure and services; the loss of natural and cultural heritage; the clean up of contaminated water supplies; and, problems in upgrading the industrial sector are all affected. The solution of these problems requires that environmental policy be related to development policy in order to give training, employment and the services needed to improve the quality of life.

· Reduce waste and to increase recycling. The concept that even used goods have value that can be recovered through recycling is based on solid experience and informed environmental management. This concept is applicable to various scales of productivity and population densities. Meeting this objective will require incentives and financial decisions concerning the scale and dynamics of demand for recyclables to discourage dissemination of contaminating and/or non-biodegradable wastes.

· Conserve energy and increase use of renewable energy sources. Energy policy is an essential part of environmental policy. Beyond the energy requirement for industry, energy use is related to quality of life. What is required are more environmentally benign energy sources that can be used for commercial application. The generation of electricity from wind is of interest to the country. Although not now capable of substantially affecting commercial energy supply, development of this technology will allow diversification from traditional and, for Uruguay, extremely vulnerable, energy sources.

· Develop the various sub-regions of the country. This objective is supported by national policies to organize land use; to encourage more balanced and decentralized development; and, to make better and more rational use of natural and human resources. Uruguay's limited geographical size and model of development has favored centralized government and homogeneous policies and actions. Instead of taking advantage of the country's natural capacities, current policies cause local economic and social damage and deterioration of natural values of some of the ecosystems of the country. In order to organize development, coordinated actions will be necessary-especially in critical watersheds where particular attention should be paid to more appropriate uses of their natural capacities.

· Strengthen foreign policy on environmental matters. This central objective is based on two factors decisive for the future of Uruguay. First, its small size and second, its downstream position within the Plata River Basin between Argentina and Brazil an area where urbanization and industrial development are the greatest in South America. Beyond the formulation of internal environmental policies, this objective reflects the national priority to orient the country's foreign relations with a sound environmental policy, particularly within the framework of the Southern Common Market (Mercado Común del Sur, MERCOSUR).

· Maintain locally shared environmental control. Environmental management that is socially relevant requires a socially aware population as well as the means to direct government and private actions with consistency. This, in turn, requires a strengthened formal education system that integrates both the individual citizen and the society into a context where environmental science can play a role. Increasingly, mass media and social organization have a larger, more positive role to play in the dissemination, investigation, and use of environmental guidelines and values. At the same time, these two components constitute the most effective mechanisms for promoting concern for environmental quality. Likewise, legislation that takes a global approach and which has social consensus supports the objective of maintaining the quality of life.


Human environments include the natural and man-made attributes of ecosystems-including the economic activities and human settlements based on the development of these resources. The interactions between all of these affect the work of virtually all state or government institutions. Despite this, agencies have traditionally received mandates for managing narrow sectoral matters and for exploiting specific natural resources without much consideration of other interests. Under this model, duplication of effort occurs in some cases while untreated gaps occur in others. This is particularly so in the areas of ecosystem management, biodiversity conservation, integrated research and the relationships between economics and other environmental concerns.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Uruguay can play a large role in environmental management-in reporting cases of contamination, providing environmental education, in helping to control the effects of hazardous events and in the conservation management of biodiversity. However, they have not had the capacity to permanently manage the investigations and surveys required to play this role. Nor can they generally undertake major activities to avoid or resolve environmental management conflicts. The recent establishment of a network of national environmental NGOs in Uruguay is a step towards both a common program and improved capacities in environmental management.

In June of 1990, the Ministry of Housing, Zoning, and Environment (MVOTMA) was created to provide a necessary instrument for coordination, planning and assessment of environmental impacts, and for monitoring environmental quality. These activities are to be accomplished, in part, through the work of three directorates: the National Housing Directorate, the National Land-use Zoning Directorate (DINAOT) and, the National Environmental Directorate (DINAMA). However, the establishment of this institution does not obviate the responsibility of other government organizations and institutions to develop their own environmental awareness. Consequently, policies ratified by framework legislation and other instruments that enable the execution of environmental management policies are essential.

Institutional gaps have been identified in MVOTMA's operational structure that require several decisions at the level of government institutions: i) to coordinate the work of the ministries at the technical level; ii) to create flexible and fully supported instruments to coordinate policies of other government agencies; and, iii) to strengthen mechanisms for executing environmental policies including the participation of private organizations.

The strategy and its instruments

To insure that these objectives are met, a strategy to redirect growth toward just and equitable sustainable development is required. Given the broad range of possible actions, the strategy is to direct and coordinate government and private activities without sidetracking private initiative or creating overly bureaucratic institutions. The strategy includes instructions for institutional arrangements, education programs, social organization, legislative instruments, economic adjustments, technical cooperation and a design to locate the necessary financing. The recommended activities follow:

· Adjustment of existing institutional arrangements. Increased support of an inter-institutional system of environmental management, coordinated by MVOTMA is proposed. The purpose is to reinforce each agency's role in monitoring and controlling environmental quality in areas where they work.

· Promotion of environmental education. Within the framework of sustainable development, methods of both formal and informal education are necessary to incorporate the values, guidelines, scientific understanding and technology of environmental quality into the behavior of the nation's citizens.

· Use of public and private organizations. The strategy will provide incentives to encourage the responsible participation of community organizations such as businesses, unions, and environmental non-governmental organizations. It is proposed to include their official participation in the conservation of biodiversity, management of conservation areas and support for research in specific areas of interest.

· Creation of a legal framework for environmental management. The strategy requires "global environmental legislation" which would serve as the framework to coordinate the individual and collective responsibilities of the public and private institutions involved in environmental management.

· Adjustments in economic policy. A group of mechanisms are proposed that give financial support to environmental management, penalize degrading activities, provide incentives for the sustainable use of threatened resources and place realistic values on the many goods and services provided by nature. In this regard it will support the "Environment Fund" created in the budget legislation of January, 1991.

· Incorporation of technical cooperation. A number of areas of expertise are required to meet the objectives being proposed in the overall strategy. When the expertise does not exist in the country it will be sought through the planned use of technical cooperation provided by other nations and international organizations.

· Generation of information: research, surveys and studies. It is impossible to encourage sustainable use of natural resources if their essential characteristics are not adequately known. Therefore, it is necessary to give priority to research on:

- The natural characteristics of ecosystems and their use particularly, the productive, scenic, and aesthetic values of the sea coast, pasture, wetlands, and native forest ecosystems must be evaluated;

- The genetics of native vegetation and fauna;

- Development of germplasm and gene banks;

- Conservation of endangered fauna;

- Recovery and recycling of urban, industrial and domestic wastes;

- Management of biological and chemical pollution of water resources and treatment systems;

- Chemical and biological control of contamination; and,

- Relationship between environmental degradation and public health.

· Investments in priority issues. Redirecting the existing approach to development requires careful intervention on the part of government. The Environmental Action Plan (EAP) being proposed will help orient and organize the strategy's priority activities and these will require investment. The government will support the institutions and organizations that are available for financing execution of the proposed activities. They include:

- Creation of a National System of Protected Areas (NSPA);

- Ecotourism Development;

- Coastal Zone Reclamation and Management;

- Rezoning of Tourism Settlements;

- Management of Critical Watersheds;

- Sewage and Urban Sanitation;

- Building of Treatment Plants for Industrial Emissions;

- Reclamation and Sustainable Use of Natural Ecosystems and Resources; and,

- Design and Construction of the Country's First Energy Farm Using Wind as the Energy Source.

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