029-i. Advisory review: EIA for Hidrovía (waterway) project - South America

The NCEA issued an advisory review of a feasibility study and EIA for development of a waterway across several South American countries. It concluded that important points are lacking in the studies. The NCEA also provided an opinion on the added value of an expert panel review of these studies, and on an additional environmental study that was prepared for this panel review.

Advisory reports and other documents

15 Dec 1997: Advisory review
Accompanying letter
Accompanying letter ES
Advice ES
Appendices Advice
Appendices Advice ES

Significant details

The governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay were proposing the 'Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná navigation project'. This would serve to construct and maintain a waterway to reduce transport costs and stimulate production and trade in the region. The project would include the dredging of a navigation channel along an existing river system. This was expected to have significant impacts on wetlands and their biodiversity. Moreover, the local population could be affected by the project and its effects.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) carried out a feasibility study and an EIA. A panel of experts (from the Environmental Defence Fund and a Brazilian NGO) were to review these studies. In order to facilitate this review, the Dutch government supported a study performed by three environmental NGOs that would serve to provide background information on the case.

The Dutch government requested the NCEA to also review the IDB studies. Moreover, it asked the NCEA to give an opinion on the added value of the panel of experts' report and the NGOs' study.

In its advisory review of the IDB study, the NCEA concluded among others:

  • Justification for the project is only economic and not convincing; environmental considerations did not play an explicit role;
  • Potential impacts on the hydrological regime of the Pantanal (the world’s largest freshwater wetland) are stated as insignificant, but without providing substantiated evidence;
  • A socio-economic survey is lacking, which makes it impossible to judge whether there are any negative impacts on the local population;
  • Induced impacts were not addressed, such as land encroachment and speculation along large parts of the Hidrovía;
  • Mitigating measures for environmental impacts were limited to monitoring only, and no mitigating measures for socio-economic impacts have been prepared.

In its advice, the NCEA also gave an opinion on the added value of the expert panel. Concerning the panel's review, it concluded that it came to the same general issues as mentioned above (identified by the NCEA), but that it also highlighted some issues at the strategic level. According to the NCEA, these issues may be beyond the scope of the current project. In addition, the NCEA reviewed the NGOs' study and formed an opinion on its added value. It concluded that the study contains a wealth of useful information, but that this information had not yet been analysed and used sufficiently. It recommended to provide a summary to improve the uptake of relevant information.

Parties involved

Members of the working group

Pieter van Ginneken
Ronald Moor
Henry Opdam
Roel Slootweg
de Wit

Chair: Jan-Willem Kroon
Technical secretary: Ineke Steinhauer

Proponent and Component Authority

Governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay

Component Authority
Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Further details

Country: Argentina; Bolivia; Brazil; Paraguay; Uruguay

Last modified: 02 Apr 2019