ADAPA et al. v. Municipality of Rafaela

August 1, 2022
Final judgment
Argentina, Rafaela

Environmental NGOs, Individuals, Neighbours
Asociación “Acción por la Defensa Animal y la Protección Ambiental, Asociación Amigos de la Vida, Guillermo Horacio Dalmazzo, Leandro Gustavo Reyes, Ana María Santucci y Sergio Luis Ambrogi
Public collectivities
No description

Cancel articles 3 and 4 of ordinance 5331 of the municipality of Rafaela.
Civil and commercial court of Rafaela, Argentina
No description

March 9, 2023
Articles 3 and 4 of Ordinance 5331 are annulled.
No description

In a ruling of March 9, 2023, the Civil and Commercial Court of Rafaela declared illegal Ordinance 5531, adopted by the Rafaela City Council in December 2021, which reduced the safety distance between pesticide application zones and residential areas within the municipality (from 200 to 50 meters). The Ordinance is regressive because, by reducing the distances for the application of plant protection products without any prior study or environmental impact assessment, it violated the principles of congruence, prevention, precaution and sustainability set out in article 4 of the General Environmental Law (p.76).

The ordinance, adopted in December 2021 on a proposal by Leonardo Viotti of the Cambiemos-UCR bloc, a conservative political group, reduced the safety strip to 50 metres between the pesticide spraying zone and urban areas, and converted the remaining 150 metres of the initial 200 metres into an "ecological belt", where the spraying of so-called "organic" pesticides was authorised, subject to certain conditions.

In August 2022, a number of environmental groups, including Action for the Defence of Animals and Environmental Protection (Acción de Defensa Animal y Protección Ambiental or ADAPA), Friends of Life (Amigos de la Vida) and a group of local residents, filed a complaint with the Civil and Commercial Court of Rafaela. They claimed that the new ordinance was regressive and dangerous for human health and the environment, and that it violated the principles of congruence, prevention, precaution and sustainability set out in article 4 of the General Environment Act by reducing the distances at which plant protection products may be applied without any prior studies or environmental impact assessment, and therefore called for it to be annulled.At the trial, the applicant associations presented expert reports on the health and environmental risks incurred by the use of 'organic' pesticide products. After consulting these reports, the Court noted that "despite some differences of interpretation, scientists agree that to date, the only effective measure against the drift of plant protection products [...] is distance".

The municipality is therefore enjoined to debate and adopt new regulations on the point at issue, taking into account the scientific evidence gathered in the proceedings, guaranteeing public participation, but also complying with previous assessments and research on the subject (p.77). The Tribunal also ordered the municipality to implement other aspects of the decree that had not been challenged in the appeal concerning the forest barriers. Every 18 months, the municipality must submit a report to the Tribunal on the progress of the fences, the species planted, the sites where they have been set up, their extension and their scope.

The appeal filed by the associations and local residents fell within the scope of provincial law 10.000, which gives citizens the right to appeal against municipal administrative decisions that might harm their interests, whether simple or diffuse, in areas such as the protection of public health, the conservation of fauna, flora and landscape, and the protection of the environment.