Paraguay's Lower House Wednesday passed an emergency bill on river navigation and authorized dredging works at the Paraguay, Paraná and Apa rivers as downspouts prevent normal navigation. The document now goes to the Executive Branch for consideration.
The bill declaring a state of emergency for navigation on the Paraguay, Paraná and Apa rivers of convoy-driven and self-propelled boats had been submitted to the Senate in 2020 but it was not until recently that the Upper House approved the new regulations, albeit with some changes, which were accepted by the Lower House.
The proposal comes in light of the historical steep downspouts of the three rivers and the weather forecasts that project low hydrometry for the coming months, which would make efficient navigation impossible.
The Ministry of Finance has thus been authorized to reallocate a portion of the total of the uncommitted balances of the loan contracts and of Public Treasury issuances of debt securities of up to PYG 147,000 million (US $ 21,773,900) to dredging works of Paraguay (70%) and Paraná (30%) rivers all the way down to the Yacyretá Binational Entity dam. The bill does not mention the percentage corresponding to the Apa River.
The need to carry out dredging works is justified by the alarming lack of water flow in the Paraguay River, which causes an increase in difficult passages and makes navigation difficult, stopping the arrival of imports and the shipment of exports. The same happens with the Paraná River, which, in turn, has been strongly affected since the start of the 2020 soy harvest, to the point of reaching a critical situation that affects navigation and, consequently, the entire Paraguayan soy export logistics. Both rivers have reached their lowest levels in the past 50 years, it was reported.
The water crisis that affects the Paraná basin, Paraguay and Brazil also influences the low production of energy at the Itaipú and Yacyretá hydroelectric plants.
Discouraging weather forecasts where no rainfalls seem to be in sight have also sped up the parliamentary treatment of the bill. The low water levels are notorious in the Port of Asunción (Paraguay river) where only small boats can arrive as conditions seem to be heading for the worse.