Argentina represents an interesting case of a middle-income developing country recovering from a recent economic crisis. The 2001 crisis was the culmination of a long period of neo-liberal policies and social impoverishment. During this period, almost all public services were privatized and had weak regulation systems. The voice of civil society was absent in that process and is still out of the picture. Throughout this structural crisis, however, cultural expression remained strong and increased, particularly in the city of Buenos Aires. The political situation in Argentina remains very complicated, and the project in La Matanza is no exception to those complications. In fact, it is at the center of many political debates in the country.
The Matanza-Riachuelo, a tributary of the Rio de la Plata (La Plata River), is the most contaminated river basin in Argentina and the most visible environmental issue in the country. Over the past hundred years, the Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin has been used as a sewage sink for the entire city of Buenos Aires. Pollution levels have increased steadily with urbanization in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. The environmental and social degradation of the area can be largely attributed to:
- Limited public infrastructure investment
- Poor environmental management
- A lack of adequate urban and industrial planning.
The basin is home to Argentina’s largest concentrations of urban poor. Of the approximately 3.5 million inhabitants in the basin, 1.2 million live below the poverty line. An estimated 10 percent of the total population in the Matanza-Riachuelo River Basin lives in informal settlements, often in flood-prone areas and/or near open garbage dumps. The poorest populations living alongside the river are in constant contact with numerous contaminants ranging from untreated organic waste to toxic industrial chemicals.
The objective of the Buenos Aires IFP in 2013 (IFPBA13) is to build upon the existing framework for a five year monitoring and evaluation of the efforts of national, provincial, and local governments and other institutional and civil society actors to remedy and develop the highly polluted area of the La Matanza-Riachuelo river basin in metropolitan Buenos Aires inhabited by more than 2 million people in many jurisdictions. This student project was started in the 2010 Buenos Aires IFP. These efforts, which include many historical initiatives going back for two decades, have been given new life through the approval of a multi-year investment and rehabilitation program by the national government in 2009 and the approval of a multi-million dollar loan to Argentina from the World Bank to support this program. This program is the single largest urban environmental project undertaken by the international community within an individual city in any developing country. Its breadth, ambition, difficulty, and substantial financial resources make it an important experiment in development cooperation as well as urban environmental rehabilitation.
Within this context, the objective of the IFPBA 2013 is to continue student-run monitoring of this initiative in its fourth year to:
- Contribute to an understanding of the process of urban environmental improvement in a comparative international context
- Contribute to knowledge of international cooperation to address these problems in Argentina
- Provide an environment for in-the-field, practical learning for New School graduate students, to develop skills in framing and analyzing problems, assessing efforts to address them, and contributing to individual sectoral efforts within this larger program of initiatives
- Provide an environment for experimentation by students in developing initiatives contributing to this overall understanding and improvement of the well-being of inhabitants of the area.
- Understanding the challenges facing enterprises trying to shift to less-polluting industrial processes, including avoiding reducing employment in a time of economic recession
- Assessing the different impacts of the project in the diverse municipalities of the area, including how conversion to less-polluting processes might affect production, tax revenues, and the landscape
- Assessing the impacts on low-income communities, known as villas miserias
- Assessing the situation and impact children and adolescents leaving in the area.
- Examining the issues around the proposed relocation of part of the La Salada informal market which is on the bank of the river
- Understanding the structure and flow of financial resources for the project
- Developing a visual picture of the river basin area, its populations, communities, and environmental problems
- Documenting the presentation of the area in the media and the movements in public opinion
Fundación SES is an NGO dedicated to development issues and with close links to the local NGO network. Fundación SES will lead internships related to developing research and active, practical field experience in youth education and work, local development and ongoing scale projects.
Universidad Nacional de Avellaneda (UNDAV): Observatorio Ambiental. This recent partnership with the University of Avellaneda’s environmental observatory connects IFP students with Argentine students from UNDAV.
With the assistance of Fundación SES, students will have the opportunity to intern with the following organizations:
The national water company in Argentina, AySA (Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos)
ACUMAR, (Autoridad de Cuenca Matanza-Riachuelo) ACUMAR is tasked with carrying out the political objectives of the 2006 court case in La Matanza.
Various NGOs. There is a group of 5 NGOs on the river bank that should cooperate to ensure the social, political and environmental development of the area.
Program Info and Requirements
Begins: 1 Jun 2013
Ends: 31 Jul 2013
Supervisor: Alberto Minujin
Language Requirement: Spanish (Intermediate-High proficiency)
Students are encouraged to audit Fall and Spring Spanish Classes. Proficiency tests will be given in April.
Concentrations: Cities and Social Justice, Development, Media and Culture, Governance and Rights
Required course: Evaluating Development Impact
Living Arrangements: Students are provided with fully furnished apartments in and around the neighborhoods Recoleta and Palermo.
Alberto Minujin Contact Information