Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America
The Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) is a bold effort by the governments of South America to construct a new infrastructure network for the continent, including roads, waterways, ports, and energy and communications interconnections. Many of the projects seek to provide road and river outlets to ocean ports, with the goal of providing incentives to increase exports of commodities such as soybeans and other grains, timber, and minerals.
The South American governments are currently proceeding with the implementation of 31 "priority" projects, with a total cost of $4.3 billion. In all, 335 projects have been identified as part of IIRSA, with an overall budget of $37.4 billion. The initiative has received technical and financial support from the Andean Development Corporation, the Inter-American Development Bank, Fonplata, the United Nations Development Program, and others.
IIRSA’s single largest project is the Madeira–Mamoré–Beni–Madre de Dios hydroelectric and hidrovia (channelization) complex in the Amazon. Project proponents say that through construction of a series of four large dams, at a total cost of more than $20 billion, more than 11,000 MW of electricity could be generated, and a 2,600 mile–long industrial waterway could increase industrial agriculture, permitting the expansion of soybean cultivation on more than 46,000 square miles in and around the Amazon rainforest.
The IIRSA plans also include controversial bi–national dam projects such as Guajará–Mirim (Bolivia–Brazil, part of the Madeira–Mamoré complex), Garabi (Argentina–Brazil), and Corpus Christi (Argentina–Paraguay).
No attempt has been made to assess the cumulative impacts of this massive scheme. As a result of IIRSA, illegal logging along new roads and waterways will also impact extensive areas of the Amazon, affecting indigenous and other traditional communities. The communities that lie in harm’s way have not yet been informed about the planned projects, nor have they been asked what they think of these plans.