FUNDEPS appeared together with residents of Alta Gracia in a legal case to discuss the constitutionality of the ‘Zone of Environmental Protection’, in which the use of chemical spraying is prohibited. The regulations, which are disputed by farmers, have led to an important advance in the protection of the human right to health for the citizens of Alta Gracia, and the end of environmental pollution that should be guaranteed by law.

The by-law in question today is the result of the work of social movements that have managed to protect the outer suburbs of the city of Alta Gracia from repeated exposure to agrochemicals resulting from chemical spraying. The by-law clearly states that ‘all agrochemicals are potentially toxic’ and that ‘chronic and repeated exposure over long periods of time to even low levels of agrochemicals could be responsible for illnesses.’

These extreme effects have been confirmed in the inquiry by a medical report carried out by the Department of Allergies and Immunology at the National Clinical Hospital (UNC, National University of Córdoba), in which levels of disease much higher than average were detected in one of the affected neighbourhoods. According to the study that was carried out, ‘51% of those polled were affected by some type of illness, with a higher incidence amongst children,’ with asthma being the most recurrent condition. This finding indicates ‘a percentage that greatly exceeds the results of other studies of the prevalence of asthma carried out in the city of Córdoba.’ A year and a half since the introduction of the by-law, the Municipality of Alta Gracia states that it has seen a fall in the number of cases of skin and respiratory system conditions. Likewise, the medical report presented in the court papers explains that ‘…since then and to date, there is an overall perception by the residents that corresponds with a decrease in the appearance of new illnesses in the area.’

It should be noted that since mid-2013 FUNDEPS has held meetings with the inhabitants of Alta Gracia, who have made their voices heard through a legal process which has a direct impact on their quality of life. Through this work they are becoming participants in the legal process, hoping to maintain the appropriate public policy necessary to protect the right to good health and environment for the residents of Alta Gracia. FUNDEPS’ Programme of Human Rights will follow up the case, urging the courts to adequately recognise and value the constitutional responsibility to protect health and the environment.