written by Juan José Guaresti (III)
UNDER DEVELOPMENT IS A STATE OF MIND . IF ARGENTINA, WHICH IS ONE OF THE LARGEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, CHANGED THE WAY IT THINKS, IT COULD USE ITS GEOGRAPHICAL WEALTH AND BECOME ONE OF THE RICHEST ON EARTH. LET`S READ THE NEXT ARTICLE.
Born in Bolivian mountains, the Bermejo river enters the Argentine territory through the northern borders of Salta province and traverses about 1300 km (812 miles) delineating the southern limit of Formosa province with the northern limit of Chaco province, before reaching its confluence with the river Paraguay on the eastern borders of these provinces which is also an International border to the south west of the Republic of Paraguay.
Notwithstanding the countless highly skilled minds that have sentenced throughout history its immense strategical geopolitical conditions and opportunities as a potential source of extraordinary wealth for the Republic, its riches remain until this day unharnessed. We provide below some facts for the reader to solve this stupefying enigma.
The author laments Dr. Boscovich’s passing, to whom the whole country should feel greatly indebted. We extract a substantial amount of the data presented in this text from the astonishing analysis developed in his books “Geoestrategia para la integración regional” and “Cuaderno Académico de la Escuela de Defensa Nacional 4/2001 -Aprovechamiento fluvial multiple del río Bermejo”, both of inexcusable reading for the critical thinking of the citizen.
THE ECONOMIC ISSUE
The Bermejo river has an average annual flow of about 450 cubic meters per second but suffers from great seasonal oscillations in the volume of its water flow (from 5000 m3/s to 20 m3/s) accompanied by its consequential alterations on its river bed, which render it inapt for navigation. Notwithstanding this condition, in his many publications Dr. Boscovich has advocated the use of this natural resource since the cost of product transportation (depending in great measure of the distance needed to travel) is five times higher if done by train and fifteen times higher (as is normal and unquestioned today) if done by truck.
Trucks still remain ideal and necessary on short distance transportation, say up to 400 km, but for longer distances we should consider the alternative as both naval and railway transportation are, by far, less expensive options. The lower cost of regional goods and services would greatly improve our position in world markets thus promoting exports. This would reduce the immense poverty and suffocating inflation rates that overwhelm us.
In accordance to the President Aramburu’s 1956 decree-law 16.288/56, the so qualified “wild” waters of the Bermejo river could be tamed and used as means of transportation by the construction of an adjacent waterway next to it. Later in October 1956 decisions were taken to study the feasibility of the construction of a second waterway born from this same river and made to “traverse the provinces of Salta, Santiago del Estero, and Santa Fe before its confluence with river Paraná”.
In 1957 the National Commission of the Bermejo River (C.N.B.R.) was created by decree and chaired for ten years by Rear Admiral Gregorio Antonio Portillo. Portillo established a mission and philosophy which inspired Dr Boskovich: use the river flow and its tributaries to “create a multi-purpose infrastructure: energy, navigation, flood control, neutralization of sediments, provision of potable water, provision of water for industrial purposes, irrigation, livestock, afforestation and a number of indirect benefits for the whole Northern Argentine regions”.
Most of the technical documentation mysteriously disappeared with the Commission’s dissolution and the creation of a new Commission under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite the necessity to reassess many outdated aspects of the project, Dr. Boscovich described it as, “essential to make use of the Bermejo as a unifying nucleus and a source of development for the Argentine interior and… for the physical complementary process of the Mercosur – Conosur region”.
With the proper use of its potential the Bermejo river could prove to be pivotal in the development of an almost completely deserted area of about 250.000 km2 (156.000 square miles) in the heart of Argentina, comprising a significant part of the provinces of Chaco, Formosa, Salta, northwest of Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero (plans to include the province of Córdoba also mentioned below). And as Dr. Boscovich emphasizes: “We reiterate that this project must also be carried out for the sake of our neighboring countries, specially Bolivia, which would be granted efficient access to the sea with more suitable means of transportation to suit the needs of its current production”
According to the project, two navigable waterways and various dams must be built. The waterways would be about 45/50 meters wide by 3 meters deep. They would together extend for 1730 km (1080 miles) and require 40 m3 per second of water 24 hours a day. This represents less than 10% of the Bermejo´s regulated flow of 450m3 per second. The remaining water resource would be used to produce electricity; provide water for human, livestock, and industrial use; and land irrigation.
Concerning the vehicles with which to navigate the waterways Dr. Boscovich proposes the use low-draft, light, self-propelled barges with a load capacity of 5000 tons. He provides us with some very interesting figures: A 1000 ton barge is equivalent to 30 train wagons. A convoy of three barges pulled by a tugboat is equivalent to 100 train wagons. Considering that the friction in a liquid is much less than in a solid, the fuel consumption of the tugboat is evidently much lower than that of the locomotive as less energy is expended in its work.
The current destination of the Bermejo’s 450 cubic meters of water per every second of every year is a total waste: it flows to the Paraguay river, later on to the Parana river, from there to Río de la Plata, and straight into the Atlantic Ocean.
Instead the C.N.R.B proposed:
- a) Water for domestic consumption: It calculated that around 7m3/s would be needed for 2.000.000 people (590.000.000 liters per day).-
- b) Electric power: 3087 million Kw/hour/year would be obtained.
- c) Livestock: 10m3/s could maintain 17.280.000 of cattle in the area between both channels.
- d) Industrial consumption: from 8 to 10m3/s during the first stage.
- e) Agriculture: it estimated 2800 liters per hectare (299.34 gallons per acre), which would consume 100 m3/s in 3.000.000 hectares. Consumption would be higher with more intensive uses (farms).
Possibility to grant cheap exports to the Paraguay (Chaco) production
A dam in the Pilcomayo river with a dam would diverge part of its water in a waterway that would connect the territory of Paraguay with the Bermejo waterway.
Córdoba could and should incorporate its immense human capability together with its agricultural and industrial power into this project: Engineer Jose Palacio, a highly qualified professional from this province, designed a channel that would join the second channel in the vicinity Añatuya town and would converge with the Carcaraña river which runs into the Parana River, north of Rosario city. Cordoba’s participation would ensure the success of the initiative and notably expand the number of beneficiaries.
Argentina is presently in a very difficult financial position to carry out a project of this magnitude. It is nevertheless a good opportunity to remember a millennial Basque proverb: “Ezina, ekinez egina” (euskera for “the impossible, by endeavor is achieved”).
The author maintains this project is endorsed by the National Constitution
As established by article 75, paragraph 18 as long as it is financed by “…concessions of privileges and reward of stimulus”, without forgetting the provisions of subsection 19. If our ancestors were able to make the largest railway network in South America where there was nothing but desert land, it is clear that in a few years we will be able to connect the land-locked provinces of Salta, Jujuy and Santiago del Estero with the Atlantic Ocean; to join the illustrated Cordoba to a project which suits its qualities and necessities; to also put an end to Bolivia´s land-lock and to open a water road to the Paraguayan Chaco.
As said by General Manuel Savio (an icon in the history of our Argentine industry), “What’s important is not to delay any longer”.
Octubre 4, 2020