Argentina , Bolivia , Uruguay , Brazil and Paraguay

Lack of coordination blighting River Plate basin management

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Lack of coordination blighting River Plate basin management

The River Plate basin (pictured), which encompasses Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay, are forecast to face more conflicts and potential damage linked to climate change as the countries lack a coordinated vision. 

While the five countries are part of the basin’s intergovernmental committee (CIC), there is distrust over transcontinental waters due to an “absolute sovereignty vision which is really not good for the challenges we will face,” according to CIC’s general secretary Juan Carlos Alurralde.

Water conflicts in the region will increase in the coming years as a result, he told a webinar on the basin’s challenges held by Latin American development bank CAF.

Asked which country would be most vulnerable, CAF advisor Nicolás Lussich told BNamericas during the same event that was hard to say, “since everyone has a different view in their own country,” attesting to the lack of coordination.

The basin covers 3.17Mkm2 (million square kilometers), and is formed by the River Plate estuary, the Paraná and Paraguay rivers and their main tributaries.

Recent emergencies in the area include a drought in southern Brazil, which in turn has caused a water crisis in Argentina as the Paraná River reached record lows. 

Alurralde said this underscores the need for mechanisms that acknowledge the transcontinental nature of the basin, such as a regional alert system that CIC is working on.

He regretted that the basin’s management has become increasingly fragmented, with many “sub-basin” institutions managing tributaries that do not incorporate all countries in the area, such as the binational entities that operate hydroelectric plants Itaipú and Yacyreta and the River Plate administrative committee CARP, that often act with no coordination between each other. 

Alurralde said that some of these organisms will meet up in late October and early November, and that he hopes that a “strengthened CIC” can come out of these discussions, otherwise “it would be like shooting oneself in the foot.”

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