Despite Vizcarra’s recent insistence that the Hidrovía Amazónica project will definitely go ahead, the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) has added its voice to the widespread criticism of the Sino-Peruvian Cohidro consortium’s ill-defined plans to open up more than 2,500 kms of the Amazon and its three main tributaries to deep water navigation.
The project forms part of a regional infrastructure initiative that has already created the Trans-Oceanic Highway between ports of Peru and Brazil, which has brought with it high environmental impacts but scant dividends in terms of promoting international trade.
At issue is the weakness of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which was approved without reference to the required detailed engineering study. This has not been made public, despite reports that the study has already doubled to 19 the number of rough passages to be dredged. The MTC report also supports the findings of SERNAMP on protected areas and the Ministry of Culture’s concerns about the project’s impacts on local communities and their fisheries.
The MTC’s published concerns are all the more damaging to the consortium since, until recently, it sought to justify the suitability of the project to local authorities and affected communities. Indigenous organisations, specialist NGOs, and relevant university departments have all voiced their concerns in a well-coordinated campaign which appears to have influenced public opinion, apparently even winning over pro-business sectors of the press.
Early in October the campaign will reach Congress, where the left-wing party Nuevo Perú has convened a public forum on the status and impact of the project.