El Salvador: Community Protests Walmart’s Environmental Impact
Posted on July 30, 2012 by jway
Last week, a group of Salvadorian community activists demanded that Walmart comply with “minimum” environmental protection standards in the building of a new grocery store in the city of Mejicanos, El Salvador. According to a story by Spanish-language news agency EFE, the company plans to build the store on a site that the Salvadorian government has marked as environmentally vulnerable.
According to activists, construction on the site without environmental modifications would result in “severe harm” to the area, which is susceptible to flooding. One protester, Efe Alejandro Aragón, attributes the potential harm to the fact that a store on the site would inhibit proper drainage of rainwater. Residents of the neighborhood where the store is to be built are demanding wells with filtering systems to protect the aquifers and sub-soil near the store.
Under the previous mayor, Walmart’s plans to construct the store had been denied because the company failed to address local residents’ concerns. However, in May, the plans were approved under the new mayor. However, approval to build the store from the local planning authorities is still pending.
Walmart has faced similar scrutiny on the environmental effects of its stores throughout the United States, including recently the California towns of Burbank, Redlands, and Los Angeles’s Chinatown. The Mejicanos protests suggest that Walmart’s willingness to disregard environmental and community concerns when constructing new stores extends beyond the borders of the U.S.
In the company’s most recent annual SEC filing, where it is required to disclose pending legal actions that it sees as particularly important or potentially expensive, Walmart reported two environmental actions against it in Brazil. In the town of Porto Alegre, the local government has found alleged “soil contamination due to leakage of oil from power generating equipment” at nine Walmart locations. At another store, in the Brazilian town of Bento Goncalves, the local authorities have detected “soil contamination involving a leaking subsoil oil duct at a store site” as well as potential “soil contamination from wastewater at the same store.”
For comprehensive information about Walmart’s environmental impact, see Stacy Mitchell’s thoughtful coverage of the issue for Grist.
This post was written by Rebecca Cassler.