The Bermejo river originates in the Republic of Bolivia´s mountains and enters Argentine territory at the Province of Salta. It runs through about 1300 kms (812 miles) to its mouth in the Paraguay river and has an average flow of about 450m3 per second. It is a very difficult river for navigation because it can have from 5000m3 per second of flow to no more than 20m3 per second at certain times of the year and, in addition, varies its channel sharply, which hinders navigation.
Nowadays, the river is not used at all, even though highly skilled minds said it could be a source of extraordinary wealth for the Argentine Republic and raise the real wages. We leave the enigma to the reader, to whom we are going to provide some data, to solve the riddle.
Substantially the data of this article regarding the Bermejo River was developed by Dr.Nicolas Boscovichin his book “Geoestrategia para la integración regional ” and the ”Cuaderno Académico de la Escuela de Defensa Nacional 4/2001”Aprovechamiento fluvial múltiple del río Bermejo”, both of inexcusable reading. Unfortunately Dr. Boscovich has passed away.
THE ECONOMIC ISSUE
In his many publications Dr. Boscovich advocated the use of this river as a way of communication and transport since the cost of river navigation is about five times less than the railway and fifteen times lower than the truck.
Dr. Boscovich´s estimation relies on the distance to travel but shows that we have at hand something that can reduce both, the price level of the argentine economy, and the poverty that overwhelms us.
It is obvious that the low cost of regional goods and services would increase our ability to place us advantageously into world markets and would promote exports greatly.
In short distances, trucks are unbeatable, but in long distance, say 400 km up, both the river plus railway transport, are much cheaper than the truck. River transportation gains in the comparison.-
THE USE OF THE BERMEJO RIVER WOULD DEVELOP ABOUT 250.000 KM2 OF ARGENTINE SOIL AND COULD CONNECT BOLIVIA REPUBLIC AND THE PARAGUAY CHACO WITH THE ATLANTIC OCEAN:
The Bermejo river has been described as “wild” by variations in its channel but its waters can be used in a side channel to the riverbed. This decision was taken by decree law 16.288/56 signed by President Provisional Pedro Aramburu. This artificial channel is perfectly navigated by barges without obstacles. In October 1956 other decree ordered to study the feasibility of the construction of a second channel starting from the Bermejo river to“ cross the provinces of Salta, Santiago del Estero, Santa Fe, until it flows into the Paraná”.By decree of 1957, the National Commision of the Bermejo River was created, (C.N.B.R.) chaired by Rear admiral Gregorio Antonio Portillo for ten years. His work inspired Dr. Boscovich, because they established the philosophy of entrepreneurship that was to use the flow of that river and its tributaries to “create a multi-purpose infraestructura: energy, navigation, flood control, neutralization sediments, provision of water to drink and industrial uses, irrigation, livestock, afforestation and a number of indirect benefits for the whole north of Argentina (NOA.NEA)”.When the Commission was dissolved and its studies were transferred to a new Commission under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most of the technical documentation disappeared. Dr. Boscovich said, notwithstanding the need for rethinking many aspects of the Commission’s Project because many years went by since it was written up to the moment he studied the Commission´s work , “…it is …exceptional to make the use of the Bermejo as an axis of development and as an integrative axis of the Argentine interior and….Mercosur-Conosur´s regional physical complementation process”.
Through the Bermejo river we could develop an almost desert area of about 250.000 km2 (156.000 miles2) installed in the heart of Argentina and comprising a significant part of the provinces of Chaco, Formosa, Salta, Northwest of Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero. Bermejo River has an average flow of about 450m3 per second. To incorporate these 250.000 km2 (about 156.000 miles) into civilization, two navigable channels and various dams must be built, electricity produced and provide water for human and industrial use, in addition , irrigation for the best land and livestock rearing
The two channels to be built, would be about 45/50 meters wide by 3 meters deep and together they would reach 1730 km (about 1080 miles) and requiere 40 m3 per second of water working 24 hours a day. This would mean less than 10% of the Bermejo´s regulated flow of 450m3 per second.
Navigation in the channels would be done by means of low-cost barges, and high load capacity. Although Dr Boscovich raises the idea of using 5000-ton self-propelled barges, it provides interesting figures: A 1000 ton payload barge is equivalent to 30 train wagons. A convoy of three barges pulled by a tugboat is equivalent to 100 train wagons. The fuel consumption of the tugboat is much lower than that of the locomotive because the friction with the water expends less energy than rubbing it with the ground.
The quote we will transcribe from Dr. Boscovich also explains the purpose of this article: “ It is reiterated his work must also be carried out in benefit of the neighboring argentine countries and specially Bolivia, which will have for it is an efficient exit to the sea with a more suitable means of transport for the needs of its current production”
OTHER WATER USES:
The current destination of the water of the Bermejo of 450m3 per second is turned into de Paraguay River,and this one, into the Parana River and from there, runs to River de la Plata, and ends into the Atlantic Ocean, without any usefulness. Instead the C.N.R.B proposed:
a) Water for domestic consumption: The C.N.R.B. calculated that for about 2.000.000 people 7m3 per second would be needed, which means 590.000.000 liters per day.-Electric power :They also estimated that 3087 million Kw/hour/year would be obtained.
b) Livestock:: The C.N.B.A estimate that consumption of 10m3 second could maintain 17.280.000 cattle in the catch-up of both channels.
c) Industrial consumption: It was estimated that in the first stage they would consume 8 to10m3 per second.
d) Agriculture: Estimated 2800 liters per Ha, which consumes 100 m3 per second in 3.000.000 ha. Consumption would be higher if they were more intensive uses (farms).
IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE TO GIVE A CHEAP WAY TO EXPORT THE PARAGUAY (CHACO) PRODUCTION:
It would be necessary to close the Pilcomayo river with a dam and to use partially its water in a channel to connect the Paraguay territory with the Bermejo channel.
THE PROVINCE OF CORDOBA WITH ITS GREAT HUMAN CAPABILITY AND ITS AGRICULTURAL AND INDUSTRIAL POWER MUST BE INCORPORATED INTO THIS INTERNATIONAL PROJECT
The engineer Jose Palacio, qualified Córdoba professional, designed a channel that would join the second channel in the vicinity of the town of Añatuya and ends in the Carcaraña River which runs into the Parana River, north of Rosario city.- Cordoba´s participation would ensure the success of the initiative.
THIS PROJECT CAN BE DONE AS ESTABLISHED IN THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTION
Argentina today is in a very difficult financial position to do this important Enterprise, but it is a good opportunity to remember a millennial Basque proverb that says “The impossible, putting on it, is done”.(In the language of that breed, Basque, it is said:-“exina ekinez aegina”).
This work can be done if, as established by article 75, paragraph 18 of the Constitution Law says, we use to finance it” …concessions of privileges and reward of stimulus”, without forgetting the provisions of paragraph 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 Salta and Jujuy with the Atlantic Ocean, to join the illustrated Cordoba to a project which suits to its qualities and necessities, to put an end to the mediterraneaty of Bolivia and open a water road to the Paraguay Chaco.
The most important thing, as General Manuel Savio said: ” lets not delay any longer”.
By Juan José Guaresti(III)