Paraguay, a landlocked country in central South America, relies heavily on the Paraguay River for water and marine resources. The river is vital for Paraguayans but is becoming increasingly vulnerable to pollution and overdevelopment. This led to the achievement of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The Paraguay Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the city of Asunción started the Asunción Green City of the Americas — Pathways to Sustainability project. It was started to protect the river and to help reach U.N.’s SDG Goal 14 in Paraguay called “life below water.”
Purpose of the Sustainable Development Goals
The UN introduced its 17 SDGs to lay out a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable future by 2030. Together they work to address social, economic and environmental challenges that the world faces and move towards a sustainable future. Goal 14 is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. With more than three billion people dependent on marine resources globally, this goal is essential to a sustainable future.
Water quality, area of protected space, biodiversity threats and levels of overfishing and other indicators measure SDG Goal 14. Paraguay has struggled with water quality. Although it has some protected wildlife reserves near water, many species are critically endangered and biodiversity has been decreasing.
About the Paraguay River and Asunción
Paraguay is a landlocked country. As a result, achieving SDG Goal 14 in Paraguay requires protecting its freshwater and river systems. The Paraguay River flows from north to south throughout the entire country. It plays an important role in the freshwater system and its health is vital to the achievement of SDG Goal 14 in Paraguay. Farmers and fishermen rely on the river and it provides a significant portion of water to the Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world.
Additionally, in recent decades the river has suffered from increased levels of development and pollution due to things like untreated sewage and garbage entering the river. Poor infrastructure and management of waste lead to these items entering the river system. This harms habitat and reduces water quality. These problems are particularly prevalent in the city of Asunción. Asunción is the capital of Paraguay located on the western side of the nation. The city sits on the bank of the Paraguay River and is home to a rich variety of bird species including many migratory birds during parts of the year. The wetlands near Asunción support many other species and protect the city from flooding. The river and wetlands benefit the community by providing a source of jobs including fishing and tours as well.
The Health of the Paraguay River
Furthermore, the health of the Paraguay River near Asunción has been a concern of the community for decades. Untreated sewage as well as garbage from many landfills make their way into the river. In 2005, the Ecological Reserve of Banco San Miguel and Bahía de Asunción was created to protect the wetland ecosystem along the river. It was also a place for endangered migratory birds to rest.
The creation of the reserve was an effective first step. However, the measures taken were insufficient. Few resources were used to reverse the existing damage. With the health of the river decreasing, Paraguay was not on track to meet SDG Goal 14 by 2030. The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development teamed up with city officials from Asunción. With support from the U.N., it created the Asunción Green City of the Americas — Pathways to Sustainability project.
The plan aims to address multiple issues including waste management, transportation and habitat protection in order to benefit the people and wild animals near Asunción. Improved bus systems as well as walking and bicycling networks would benefit the communities of Asunción and reduce harmful emissions. Better waste management will reduce citizens’ exposure to harmful chemicals. It will also help preserve the health of the river and wetland ecosystem.
Overall, adequate protection and maintenance of the ecological reserves on the river along with improved waste management and transportation are important. With them, the Paraguay River can maintain its essential role for ecosystems and the people of Asunción. The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development needs to continue to work hard to protect the Paraguay River and help achieve SDG Goal 14 in Paraguay.
– William Dormer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons