Punilla, a highway is advancing and natural assets are in danger

Even if it rained a little, it wasn’t enough and drought is a serious problem in Córdoba. The clearing, coupled with population growth driven by large real estate developments and lack of rainfall, conspire to make the situation extreme. In this note we approach the reality of Val Punilla, crossed by the construction of the mountain road which makes the panorama more complex.

By Inés Domínguez Cuaglia for The dye

It was unbearably hot and between La Escaloneta and Nonna la la la la there was little talk about what is happening with the water and the great water crisis we are going through. In many places there is no water, cuts are daily and mega-projects do not stop in our mountains. They promise fast circulation, but they are not just millionaire deployments, they obliterate the mountain and, with it, all the resources it offers us. Policies that enrich only a few, policies that are not policies.

It rained a lot last night, neighbors are expecting major floods in the Punilla area and many are on the alert, because floods are the other side of drought. Evictions and fires, clear causes and always hand in hand with new subdivisions and major engineering works. To understand this reality, we spoke to specialists and inhabitants of the valley, who updated us on how life is lived in the area and what are the urgent problems to be solved.

Emilio Iosa He is a resident of the Punilla Valley and a doctor. He masters in public health and is dedicated to research in environmental health policies. “The situation in our reservoir and in all Córdoba reservoirs is very serious. The Córdoba government’s denial of climate change is evident. Many multimillion-dollar resources are invested and the population gets into dollar debt for works that do not give priority to the sustainable development of local communities”says in communication with The dye.

He explains that, in the deterioration of water in Córdoba, there is a strong political component, as well as ecological, environmental and health. It indicates Cordoba’s progress model of the last 25 years which always gives priority to infrastructural works that have nothing to do with the care of water resources or people’s health.

“Water is not only a source of life and health. In the case of Lake San Roque, 70% of the population of Córdoba drinks water from there and, moreover, it is the economic engine of the main tourist city of the province and of the region,” explains the researcher.

It should also be noted that the provincial government has abandoned the infrastructural works necessary for sanitation and that the situation is very complicated in relation to the quantity and quality of water. “The resource is becoming scarcer and more affected by fires and climate change. The quality of the water has deteriorated a lot”, says Iosa and adds that, for the moment, there are no indications that the government understands this reality and takes vigorous action on it. Instead “they had the brilliant idea of ​​building a 440 million dollar interprovincial aqueduct (Santa Fe-Córdoba) which aims to solve the water problem with a pharaonic work, bringing water from the Paraná River, a river strongly influenced by the climate change., due to the deforestation of the Amazon, but, above all, due to the arrival of pesticides from all over the basin of Brazil and northern Argentina. This is the solution they offer to the population,” he says worried.

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Eugenia Caraballo She is a neighbor of the Municipality of San Roque and is a member of the Punilla Assembly, convened to take care of natural assets and collectively resist the megaprojects planned in the area. That drought is bad, we already know and that it feels even worse year after year. The problem is that there is no horizon that promises improvements. “The problem is that there are no public policies in line to counter this situation. On the contrary, what is being done worsens and deepens the lack of water and its quality. Satellite maps of how native forest has been reduced in our province have long been circulating. One of the things we experience year after year is fires. These are not only intentional, but the government does nothing to prevent them and their complicity in their occurrence is exposed. Then road works appear in burnt areas or real estate activities, ”she specifies. Eugenia refers to the highways being built in both Punilla and Paravachasca. Environmentalist assemblies denounce that both works (affecting the Anisacate and Yuspe rivers) have ineffective environmental impact studies, approved for administrative illegitimacy.

The imposition of both highways has brought resistance from us who live in the valleys and justice turns a deaf ear in a complicit way. After knocking on all the doors and taking the corresponding steps without being heard, we are left to put our bodies to protect the territories. Having said that, the government sent us repressive forces to get rid of us and, today, we have more than 20 defendants for the defense of water and the right to a healthy environment,” says Caraballo.

In Bialet Massé, there is La Aguadita, a large natural space full of slopes maintained by the neighbors. A square where many families share the afternoon and where they are supplied with fresh and healthy water. Today this place is in danger, the highway would pass through it.

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Jessica Scoreancig She is a neighbor in the Mirador del Lago neighborhood and says that they experience water outages every 4 or 5 days and that, in the higher areas, they directly have no water. “The situation in this area is alarming and, above all, even more alarming with the bad news that the highway would cross La Aguadita and the Yuspe River. They are sources of water, vital for life. Without water, there are no plants or trees, there is no ecosystem, there is nothing”., says Jésica and tells that they get their water from there not only for cleaning and washing, but also for drinking because it is very rich since it comes from a spring. “Currently, one of the aspects is not working. With the clearing caused by the new subdivisions, the land remains dry and, when it rains, the slopes are covered. We have no one to turn to because the Municipality is not taking charge”, says Jésica worried.

Adriana Arriaga She is a neighbor of Cosquín and is part of the Environmental Assembly of Cosquín. He tells us about the situation in his country and the concern he feels about the low flow of rivers and the imminent passage of the highway over them.

“Entrepreneurship such as highways are very important to the provincial government. It is also convenient that the watercourses are low because they are working on these works which also have to cross rivers and lakes. The lower they are, the easier it is to continue with these jobs”, Adriana says suspiciously.

(Image: Ana Medero for The Tint)

What is missing is the pressure of running water that reaches homes. The solution of the municipality is the same as in other cities in the area and also in other corridors such as Sierras Chicas: water outages at certain times of the day or days of the week and low pressure. This causes the supply to neither reach high places nor be enough to fill the tanks. At the same time, the private water business, i.e. private purchases of water trucks.

This scenario is complicated, according to Arriaga, since the management of the water service is not optimal and there is no planned plan of the city water network, in addition to the poor condition of the pipelines which, in several sections, are inadequate to transport water for consumption . “There is not enough water for the residents, while the companies that make the highway use the water at close range. We see them taking water from rivers, huge amounts of water”, says Adriana and expresses her complete concern for the consequences of the layout of the motorway which, logically, contributes to the deforestation of all resources. They are destroying vegetation, a sponge that protects the soil and helps retain water in dry seasons like the one we are experiencing. With a living native forest, the water keeps flowing through underground streams, springs, streams and rivers. This may stop happening.

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The Yuspe River has its source there, near Los Gigantes, and flows down the entire area, it is incredibly rich, it largely maintains the native ecosystem. It is fresh water in the summer siestas and, when it joins the San Francisco, the Cosquín River is born. Resonance box of many chacareras danced to the rhythm of the bass drum and the guitar. Sunrises after discos, dancing kisses, barbecues and companions. It also preserves on its banks Comechingones and previous archaeological remains, that is, of the Ayampitín culture. This area, which is pure natural and historical perfection, is now in danger.

“The entire water system that nature has created over the centuries and that has always worked is being altered. It has been modified since the last century, but especially in the twenty years of the 21st century in an impressive way throughout Córdoba”explains Adriana. For her part, Eugenia, from the Municipality of San Roque, adds that she has reported the explosions in the Molinari area: “Not only are they blowing up the reservoir, but they are contaminating our air, land and water with the remains of explosives that we might see in their own boxes that talk about causing cancer.”.

Nothing is random, the highway is traced by rivers. It is built as an alternative circulation to the already existing domestic routes. Instead of refurbishing them, environment-destroying mega jobs are being made with the promise of rapid circulation. When what is needed are policies that truly care for natural resources and control the expansion of developments.

We need to find ways of living that are in harmony with the places we inhabit.

*By Inés Domínguez Cuaglia for La tinta / Cover image: The Highlighter.

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