Ecology Programmes La Plata Basin – wetlands without borders

The wetlands system of the Paraguay and Parana rivers extends for more than 3,400 km from north to south, from the Gran Pantanal del Alto Paraguay down to La Plata River, covering an area of approximately 400,000 square kilometres with varying climate zones, tropical, subtropical and moderate. With its hydrological river flow this extended area constitutes the largest living freshwater wetland in the world.

The wetlands system has a regulating role in the low or rising water levels of the rivers of the system, it is a supplier of fresh water for human consumption and irrigation for agriculture, provides freshwater and food for the millions of people living along its margins and plays a crucial role in continental- and global climate control and local adaptation strategies. The region is also unique in its social, cultural and economic diversity. Thousands of local communities: forest dwellers, fishermen, small-scale agricultural producers and honey producers depend on a healthy ecosystem. Therefore, the aim of this programme is to help ensure that the wetlands can continue to deliver their vital environmental, economic and social services.

The world’s largest living freshwater wetland under threat

Unfortunately, La Plata Basin is confronted with significant societal challenges, such as high levels of poverty and inequality, the deterioration of ecosystems and changes in water cycles, droughts and floods. The latter is the direct result of the impacts of climate change and decades of extractives’ policies that serve mostly the financial sector, large-scale agriculture producers and mining and forestry industries. Soy is the main crop that is cultivated on the most fertile pieces of farmland for which large tracts of the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado have been deforested. The farming- and cattle-raising sector in La Plata Basin is a renowned supplier to buyers all over the world, and the extractive industry and the infrastructure sector related to it are growing fast. Licenses for the conversion of ecosystems such as forests and wetlands have been and will continue to be issued by the local and national authorities of the five countries.

Strong civil society needs support and funding

Civil society in the region has played a significant role in protecting the basin’s communities and ecology. For more than three decades, small, medium and large organisations have been cooperating to build awareness on urgent social and environmental questions and effectively push for provincial, national and regional laws, rules and regulation that form the basis of effective and inclusive socio-environmental governance of the basin. People in the region, in rural areas, small and big cities, are generally well aware of new infrastructure projects planned in their region. Heavy inundations and other water-related disasters have intensified over the last years, and this has led to a growing awareness among citizens on the threats of unsustainable agriculture and deforestation. Yet often there is a lack of organisations that articulate concerns and galvanise the energy and dynamics of spontaneous citizens’ initiatives. Furthermore, because of the region’s categorization as ‘developed’, it has been a constant struggle for civil society to generate long-term funding. Therefore, this programme invests in mobilising people, as part of their organisation but, maybe more importantly, also as part of a broader civil society movement in their country and in La Plata Basin.

Both ENDS’ role

Both ENDS has a long-standing track record in La Plata Basin. Starting in 1992, Both ENDS supports the work of the civil society organisations in this region, focussing on groups that work in close cooperation with local communities. We connect partner organisations to an international network, so that the civil society in La Plata Basin is recognized as an important player by key decision makers operating internationally (investors, private sector, Dutch government, EU). We advocate at Dutch/EU and/or international level for laws and policies that contribute to the restoration and conservation of La Plata Basin and sustainable production methods. We bring the challenges of La Plata Basin to the attention of Dutch scientists and technical experts to seek their contribution to the agenda proposed by civil society.

Overall goals

The overall goal of the programme is that policies, legal frameworks and practices guarantee the long-term preservation of La Plata Basin. After ten years of implementation, we aim to have achieved that civil society is an effective key player and helps ensure the governance, management and implementation for the restoration, conservation and sustainable development of La Plata Basin.

1) Civil society agents in La Plata countries have the capacities to advocate & lobby individually and in strategic coalitions.
2) Structural long-term input from civil society to socio-environmental issues in La Plata Basin.
3) Sustainable development solutions for socio-economic issues in La Plata Basin are adopted and implemented.

This programme is executed by our partner Both ENDS.

Key features

Landscape  Covering the river basins of the Paraguay and Parana rivers
  400.000 hectares
  5 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay
Goals for the next 3 years  Addressing hydro-dams
  Introduce proctective legislation
  Launch first agro-ecology projects with farmers
  Proposals for bio-cultural corridors
  Sustainable management of Parana Delta