This Wednesday, January 8 of this year, the second report of the Mining and Energy Commission of the draft Law on Protection of Glaciers was carried out, at the initiative of Parliament, which is in its first constitutional process of the Senate, its origin chamber.

Recall that this bill was presented through a parliamentary initiative on July 4, 2018, by Senators Girardi, Allende and Órdenes. Subsequently, in September 2019, the executive presented indications to the project, in order to incorporate his vision on the protection of our glaciers.

This is how we arrived at the Mining and Energy Commission last Wednesday, an instance in which the discussion of the indications presented by the executive power, represented by the Minister of Mining Baldo Prokurica , continued, which he explained to the commission. composed of senators; Yasna Provoste , Rafael Prohens , Álvaro Elizalde , Guido Girardi and Alejandro García-Huidobro .

On this occasion, the executive’s instructions began to be voted, which come to modify the original project. During the development of the commission, it was observed that there are two positions in this regard, both of which tend to offer shelter to glaciers and their surrounding ecosystems, however, their differences lie in the following:

The Purpose of this Law:

In this sense, the original project states the following : The purpose of this law is to protect glaciers, the periglacial environment and permafrost in order to preserve and conserve them as strategic reserves of water resources, as water providers for recharging basins hydrographic, for the protection of biodiversity, as a source of scientific information and for sustainable tourism .

The executive’s project defines : Object. The purpose of this law is to protect glaciers located in the national territory in accordance with this law, with the purpose of conserving their ecosystem services, in terms of water resources reserves .

The definitions that the new law will incorporate

In this regard, the concept of glacier under the original project is: Any stable or slowly effluent perennial ice mass, with or without interstitial water, formed by recrystallization of snow, located in different ecosystems, whatever their shape, size and state of conservation. They are a constituent part of each glacier: rocky detrital material, internal and superficial water courses.

The law expressly recognizes that glaciers are complex ecosystems, associated with glacial and periglacial environments, and are part of the hydrological cycle of waters.

While the executive proposes that the definition of a glacier should remain as: a land mass of water in a solid state, of natural occurrence, that has lasted at least fifteen years, with the presence of ice and eventually snow and surface snow, with evidence of current flow or roasted, regardless of its state of degradation, regardless of its geometric shape and location (valley glacier, mountain glacier, effluent, ice field, or others), and its surface detrital cover at the end of the ablation period, being glacier discovered when it contains little debris cover, less than 10%; and covered glacier when it contains abundant detrital cover, between 10% and 90%.

They are constituent parts of a glacier, its surface or incorporated rocky detrital material inside the glacier and liquid water, both surface and internal.

Glaciers smaller than one hectare are not considered glaciers for the purposes of this law, unless they are already verified in the inventory referred to in article 3 at the entry into force of this law, in which case they will cease to be “glacier” when reduced to less than 0.1 hectares.

During the commission’s development, Senator Guido Girardi’s strong defense of the original project was observed, in the sense of leaving the much broader concept of it, emphasizing the climatic emergency that our planet is currently facing, which has our country as one of the main affected. On the part of the executive and Senator Prohens, the difficulty that would exist for the fulfillment of the future norm was present, since the duty to preserve glaciers would be practically impossible in the scenario of global retreat of these ice masses.

Following the previous guideline, the tendency of the original project to protect under all conditions all glacial environments can be observed, that is, both the glacier and the periglacial and permafrost environment. In contrast, the indications of the executive offer full protection only to glaciers located in Virgin Region Reserves and National Parks, allowing the carrying out of projects or activities that may affect them outside these areas, prior to the application of the existing environmental institutionality, that is, the intervention of the Environmental Impact Assessment Service.

Himself, Senator Provoste, raised the need to incorporate, along with the concept of supplier of hydrographic basins, the concept of water as an essential element in human development. He also noted that the executive’s indication reduces the view of guaranteeing human drink first, being even more restrictive than the bill approved in the Senate in the first step.

On the part of the executive, it was noted that, if the original bill were approved, practically no activity could be carried out in glacial environments, highlighting that the executive substitute project, by not prohibiting activities, but subjecting them to prior evaluation by the environmental authority, is more understandable from the constitutional point of view.


In both positions, the role of strategic reserves of fresh water for our country stands out, in this there is no difference. Disparities arise when determining the degree of protection that the new standard will indicate. On the one hand, and in the original project, we see a position of total protection from glaciers, that is, to prevent any activity that may cause damage to our ice bodies. This contrasts with the executive’s vision, which proposes a partial protection and subject to the evaluation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Service , an institution that will analyze case by case the activity that aims to affect our glaciers.

When discerning as citizens and taking positions, we must bear in mind that the vast majority of glaciers located in the central north of our country are not within protected areas, therefore, the intervention of glaciers would have light green, through the application of our environmental institutionality, which as we have seen is still weak to measure up to the true climate emergency that is taking place precisely in the north central area of ​​our country, due to the lack of rainfall and the change climate that wreaks havoc on our planet, our only home.

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