Paraguay

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PARAGUAY, Asunción: Lapachos roses

PARAGUAY, Asunción: Lapachos roses en fleur dans la capitale. Le lapacho est l’arbre national du Paraguay. AFP PHOTO/Norberto Duarte

Paraguay is a South American country surrounded by Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. It has a surface area of 406 750 km² and an estimated population of over 6 million (in 2010). Its capital, Asunción, is on the edge of the Paraguay River which divides the country into two big regions. The oriental region is the most populated. The climate in most of the country is mild. The South East has a subtropical climate and the far North East is arid. 45% of the active population is employed in the agricultural sector and the sector accounts for 20% of the GDP.

Issues

Forests. 46.5% of Paraguay is covered in forest. But deforestation destroys 0.5% of these forests on average each year, especially for soya crops. Paraguay is the 6th largest soya producer in the world. Deforestation plays a big part in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy. Over 99% of the country’s electricity is generated by hydropower. It is one of the only countries in the world to generate almost all its electricity using a renewable source. In 2005, it emitted the least amount of CO2 in Latin America (3.85 Mt). The Itaipu Dam provides over 86% of Paraguay’s electricity. The construction of another big dam, the Yacyretá Dam, gave rise to much controversy as it led to the displacement of several hundreds of thousands of people and disturbed the ecosystem.

Water pollution. Pesticides used by farmers, and the mercury and chrome produced by the country’s tanneries contaminate drinking water resources and pose a public sanitary health problem.

Wildlife. Paraguay’s wildlife is threatened by poaching. Most of the time, the authorities turn a blind eye to it. Several species of crocodiles and armadillos which are hunted to produce leather are thus under threat.

Players

Elias Diaz Pena and Oscar Rivas won the Goldman Prize in 2000. They successfully defended alternatives to the Hidrovia project, a programme to turn 3400 km of the Paraguay and Paraná rivers into an industrial shipping channel. The initial form of the project would have had serious environmental and social effects on Paraguay as well as Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia.

The Paraguayan branch of the WWF has set up the “A todo Pulmon- Paraguay respira” campaign, to preserve the country’s forests and raise the population’s awareness of the problem. One of this project’s major successes has been to promote the “zero deforestation” law, which was finally passed for the oriental part of the country. Amongst other things, the programme hopes to replant 14 million trees in the oriental part of the country, mostly in the Paraguayan Atlantic Forest. This primary forest has lost almost 90% of its surface area since the 1950s.

paraguay
Carte Paraguay
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