THIS LANDLOCKED SOUTH American country has land borders with Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil, and covers an area of 157,047 sq. mi. (406,752 sq. km.). It has a total population of 6,036,900 (2003 est.), with a population density of 38.4 people per sq. mi. (14.5 people per sq. km). However, the real population density for much of the country is higher, as the country is bisected by the Rio Paraguay (Paraguay River), and the vast majority of the population lives in the eastern half of Paraguay. Only 6 percent of the land is arable, although 55 percent of it is used for grazing animals.
The main environmental problem in the country is the lack of arable land. This has resulted in deforestation to create more farmland, although officially 35 percent of Paraguay remains forested. The western half of the country, the Chaco Desert, has extremely poor soil and is used for cattle grazing and ranching, but the cattle industry has faced many problems. Even in the more fertile eastern half of Paraguay, the soil is poor, and much of the land is also used for grazing cattle, for which there are 9,400 head per 1,000 people in the country.
The underdeveloped economy and the low standard of living have helped reduce the effect of the country on global warming, with Paraguay ranking 157th in the world for carbon dioxide emissions per capita of 0.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita in 1990, rising to a peak of 0.9 per capita in 1998, and then falling back to 0.7 in 2000-03. Much of this was because of the low use of electricity by the poor in rural areas and in shantytowns, and the relatively low use of cars.
There has been a sharp increase in car usage in recent years that has coincided with a marked decline in public transport. The railway network that covered parts of eastern Paraguay closed down in the 1970s, and only operates a tourist train, leading to an increase in road haulage, and the tram system in Asuncion, the capital, was closed for general use in 1995. There have also been few environmental controls in the country. However, Paraguay has been active at the international level, as a member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and as one of the early countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was done on August 25, 1998. Paraguay was the 13th country to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which took place on August 27, 1999.
One of Paraguay’s main contributions to reducing the threat of global warming was the construction of the Itaipu Dam, which started generating power in 1982. By 2000, it was supplying hydroelectric power to much of the country, making 93 percent of all electricity generation in Paraguay; and providing 20 percent of the electricity used by Brazil, generating significant income for the Paraguayan economy. Subsequently, work has begun on the Yacyreta Dam, located on the Paraguayan-Argentine border, which will provide electrical power for sale to Argentina.