On July 8, 2008 the Supreme Court of Argentina issued another remarkable ruling in its ongoing effort to clean up the Matanza -Riacheulo River Basin in Buenos Aires. In June 2006 the Supreme Court ordered the federal, provincial and local governments to develop a plan to remediate severe environmental contamination that threatens the health of millions of poor residents of the area (see blog entry for October 8, 2007 on my other site at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com under "weekly blog"). In response to this order, the governments agreed to create a new Riachuelo River Basin Authority and to develop a long-term cleanup plan. In September 2006 the Supreme Court held landmark public hearings where government agencies, polluting companies, and NGOs presented their views on how to clean up the area. After listening to the testimony of some of the companies, Chief Justice Lorenzetti remarked that they tried to make it sound as if “the river polluted itself.” The new decision by the Supreme Court seeks to focus and speed up the cleanup process. It directs the River Basin Authority to inspect all businesses in the basin within 30 days and it directs all polluting companies to present their own cleanup plans within the same period. Measures to prevent clandestine waste dumping and illegal settlements must be in place within six months. The Court specified that any failure to comply with these orders could result in fines being levied by it personally against National Environment Secretary Romina Piccolotti, the head of the River Basin Authority.
The Center for Human Rights and the Environment (CEDHA) based in Cordoba, Argentina states that the Court’s decision “is as historic as it is controversial.” It is “the first time in Argentine history that the Supreme Court is engaging directly in defining public environmental policy”. A copy of the Court’s decision (in Spanish) is available at: http://www.cedha.org.ar/docs/fallo_riachuelo080708.pdf. CEDHA’s July 15th press release reacting to the decision is available at: http://www.cedha.org.ar/en/more_information/river.php. I wish to thank Nestor Cafferatta for sending me a copy of the Court’s decision.
Last Tuesday I left Beijing and moved back to the United States. The night before I left Wang Canfa hosted me for a farewell dinner. We went to the Baguobuyi Restaurant. Following dinner we watched a terrific demonstration of traditional Chinese mask dancing. Also at dinner was Wang Jing, my student assistant, who accompanied me to the airport on Tuesday. I will really miss her. I cannot imagine a better group of hosts than I had during my semester at the China University of Political Science and Law.
During the upcoming fall semester I will be back at Maryland teaching Environmental Law and Administrative Law. But I plan to continue working closely with my many friends in the environmental community in China. I have just completed a short article “The Challenge of Chinese Environmental Law” that will be published in the fall 2008 edition of The International Environmental News, a newsletter published by the International Law Section of the American Bar Association. In September I will be on a panel on Chinese environmental law at the annual fall meeting of the ABA’s Section on Environment, Energy and Resources in Phoenix. As soon as my classes are completed at Maryland in early December, I plan to return to China to host an environmental law film festival and awards ceremony at the China University of Political Science and Law and to work with the Chinese entrants in the upcoming International Environmental Moot Court Competition.
There are many things that I will miss about living in Beijing, including the following:
THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT BEIJING
My wonderful Chinese students who made this the most rewarding teaching experience of my life
The Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (Wang Canfa, Xu Kedzu, Zhang Jingjing)
World class restaurants (Blu Lobster, Hatsune, Made in China, Noble Court, Lan)
Tui Travel and my travel agents April Mo and Winwin Song
The great sense of humor exhibited by my Mandarin tutor
Foot massages at Dragonfly
Late night conversations with Dan Guttman, Zhang ZeeZee and Alan Lepp.
Home delivery of the China Daily
Exploring the Great Wall in three different locations
Beijing’s proximity to so many great weekend travel destinations
The doormen at my Centennial Heights apartment
Quick lunches at Circling Sushi just before leaving for class
Watching the progress of construction on the new CCTV towers (“the pants”)
There also are a few things that I will not miss about living in Beijing, including the following:
THINGS I WILL NOT MISS ABOUT BEIJING
Air pollution that makes seeing blue sky or white clouds a rare event
Being unable to use tap water even to brush your teeth
Taxis without working seat belts
Traffic that does not stop even for pedestrians in crosswalks with a green light
Cellphone spam on China Mobile
Poorly qualified posers representing the U.S. point of view on CCTV-9’s “Dialogue” program
Moments of terror from near collisions in taxis
Scammers who say they “just want to practice their English”
Hawkers who won’t take “no” for an answer even when you say it in Chinese
Censorship of CNN International and BBC news reports on topics sensitive to Chinese government
Amazingly, despite my five months living in Beijing, there are several places I never managed to visit:
PLACES I FAILED TO VISIT ON THIS TRIP, BUT WILL BE SURE TO SEE NEXT TIME
Beijing Zoo (last visited in 1981)
Inside of the National Theater (“the Egg”)
Inside of the National Olympic Stadium (“the Bird’s Nest”)
Inside of the National Aquatic Center (“the Water Bubble”)
Summer Palace (last visited in 1981)