News Feature | February 27, 2014

Hope For Brazil's Huge Water Project?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A major water infrastructure project in Brazil has been stalled for years and remains only half finished, but there may be hope for it yet. 

The pricy and complicated project aims to build infrastructure to relay water from the São Francisco, the nation's second-largest river, to the drought-ridden northeast region, according to Reuters. As the Global Post put it: "Plans are in the works to divert the Sao Francisco River, the region’s main artery, to provide irrigation throughout" the nation's most drought-afflicted regions.

The project has fallen behind. 

The government originally said that by 2010, "water would be pumped over hills and into a 477 kilometer-long network of canals, aqueducts, and reservoirs to quench thirsty cities and farms in four states," according to Reuters.

But at this point, the project remains "only half built," the news service said. "Delayed by bureaucracy and contract problems, the cost of the government's single biggest infrastructure venture has almost doubled to 8.2 billion reais ($3.4 billion)."

Brazil President Dilma Roussef has tried to restore hope about the project. She has been "accelerating construction as she vies for re-election in October," the report said. 

But political leaders have kept this project, a source of hope for those in drought-plagued areas, alive in the public discourse.  

"People say it will never be finished, like an Egyptian pyramid that will take ages to build," José Francisco Teixeira, the official charged with completing the project, said to Reuters. 

But by 2015, seven years after work began, Teixeira explained "that water will be flowing to 12 million people in at least parts of the four states meant to benefit: Ceará, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte and Pernambuco," the report said. 

"Seven years is an acceptable time frame for a project this big," Teixeira said in the report. 

Why is this effort so important?

"Northeastern Brazil is experiencing its worst drought in half a century. Hundreds of thousands of cattle have died in the last three years as a result of the long dry spell. One farmer illustrated this, poignantly, by lining the heads of his dead cows along his property. And the problem, meteorologists say, is only going to get worse," Atlantic Cities explained, offering photos of the construction project. 

The project has hit hurdles at every level along the way. For instance, "after closing the deal, the contractors complained they did not realize what type of rocks they were dealing with," BNamericas reported.

Image credit: "rio são francisco," © 2014 Bart vanDorp, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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