Around 94% of Uruguay’s rivers suffer from contamination, according to a report conducted by local NGO Vida Silvestre. A figure that has not changed to date.
To determine contamination, the researchers looked at whether the rivers were classified as eutrophic, which occurs when excess nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen are found in the water leading to excessive plant growth.
The dominant agriculture model in Uruguay is affecting freshwater fishing communities, as a result of the massive use of agrochemicals in large-scale, high input farming, including soya, rice and wheat.
This comes as no surprise as the pesticides used on Uruguayan farms are renowned worldwide for their toxicity to aquatic fauna and, in particular, fish.
Pesticide impacts on aquatic systems are not only due to acute or direct toxicity. The fact that fish do not always die from pesticide contamination of water does not mean that there is no problem.
Research shows that when pesticide-loaded soil or field run-off reaches watercourses, the pesticide may accumulate in the organs and tissues of the fish, which are then eaten by fisher families and other consumers, with consequent risks for health, and for fisheating wildlife.
Río de la Plata literally means “river of silver,” but looking at the river today you might think that the river would be more aptly named Río de Marrón (river of brown). The coasts of the Río de la Plata are the most densely populated areas of Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Uruguay (Montevideo).
Due to pollution from these areas and the abundance of river sediment, the river is usually a brown color. Fortunately there are currently several efforts underway to restore the river and protect its unique wildlife.