Argentina’s government has created a new unit to investigate and prevent environmental crimes, reacting to the deliberate destruction of terrain for commercial purposes.
The Unit for the Analysis and Prevention of Environmental Crimes (Unidad de Análisis y Prevención de Delitos Ambientales) was officially established via Resolution 19/2023, published on Monday in the Official Gazette and signed by the National Security Ministry.
According to the announcement, the unit’s objective will be "to assist in the detection and prevention of the different manifestations of environmental crimes that take place within the national territory, whether they affect the flora, fauna, soil, air, water and/or maritime spaces subject to national jurisdiction."
The new department will collect and systematise information on environmental crime, whether from open sources or via information provided by the Federal Police and Security Forces, in order to develop indicators and draw up reports for an Environmental Crime Assessment Board to work on.
The unit will be in charge of creating a situation map that defines and detects "hot spots," identifying crimes by zones with the aim of proposing measures to prevent them, according to the notice. It will also coordinate the exchange of information between environmental areas of the Federal Police and Security Forces in order to generate early warning indicators of the perpetration of environmental crimes.
The objective of this new discipline is to outline security policies aimed at generating mechanisms to prevent and fight against environmental crimes.
The Security and Criminal Policy Secretariat will appoint the head of this new division, which will be in charge of the Environmental Crimes Evaluation Board, made up of "all personnel from state, national or provincial entities and/or civil society organisations competent in the matter," according to the notice.
Among the members of the roundtable will be representatives of the National Directorate of Criminal Investigation, the Directorate of Investigation of Federal Crimes, the National Directorate of Criminal Intelligence and the specialised environmental areas of the federal forces. Each force must designate two representatives to form part of the roundtable.
"The members of the MESA will act without prejudice to the tasks of their respective positions, and their appointment will not imply the performance of higher functions or involve any budgetary expenditure," explained the resolution, which states that "the importance of the problem requires addressing it in a comprehensive and joint manner."
It also argued: "Environmental crimes affect the preservation, conservation and recovery of environmental resources and biological diversity, generating damage that negatively modifies the environment, its resources, the balance of ecosystems, or collective goods or values, causing harm to the quality of life of present and future generations.
"It is necessary to have a common space to address the issue of crime, with the aim of outlining security policies that aim to generate mechanisms to prevent and combat environmental crime," the publication concluded.
Argentina has long suffered from wildfires, losing hundreds of thousands of hectares to flames every year. Experts and officials agree that many of the outbreaks are started intentionally in order to enhance agricultural productivity and to clear land for real-estate and commercial developments.
Last month, authorities in Tierra del Fuego Province declared an environmental emergency and banned the lighting of fires in wild areas until June 30, 2024.
A 2020 study from Cordoba’s Judiciary on the province’s wildfires indicates just how rarely individuals are punished, or even prosecuted, by legal authorities. Despite the fact that the region is one of the provinces most affected annually by wildfires, only 25 cases were investigated between 2015 and 2019 with 44 people charged. Of these cases, only one person was convicted.