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I. Introduction

1.1 Background
1.2 Objectives of the Seminar-Workshop
1.3 Progress of the Seminar-Workshop

1.1 Background

Between December 1991 and May 1993 torrential rains occurred in the middle and lower basins of the Paraná River, and between March and May of the latter year the same thing happened in the middle and lower basins of the Paraguay River, causing extreme flooding in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The floods seriously damaged the socioeconomic infrastructure of the region affected and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people in the Argentine provinces of Buenos Aires, Chaco, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Misiones, and Santa Fe. In Paraguay more than 70,000 people were evacuated from the cities of Asuncion, Concepción, Alberdi, and Pilar. In Brazil torrential rains and floods in these basins forced the removal of thousands of people, besides causing serious economic damage. In all three countries the capital losses and the losses of production and service capacity were considerable, especially in such important sectors as agriculture, energy, and transport. In 1993 the flooding of the Mississippi River basin in the United States, apart from its impact on the health and well-being of the population affected, caused losses exceeding US$ 12 billion.

In view of this background, the Department of Regional Development and Environment (now the Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment) of the Organization of American States (OAS), with the support of the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, Water Resources and Legal Amazonia and of Itaipu Binacional, decided to hold the Seminar-Workshop on Reduction of Vulnerability of the Agricultural, Energy, and Transport Sectors to Floods in River Basins, which took place from November 29 to December 1, 1995, in Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná State, Brazil.

1.2 Objectives of the Seminar-Workshop

The main objective of the Seminar-Workshop was to evaluate the results of the work done by various countries in the hemisphere to mitigate the effects of flooding in river basins and its interrelations with basin-management programs, and to examine and agree upon activities susceptible to hemispheric cooperation. Some of the more specific objectives were the following:

· To examine the applicability and usefulness of various mechanisms for reducing the impact of floods and define an action plan that would incorporate them:

- into environmental impact studies;
- into the formulation of new investment projects; and
- into post-disaster reconstruction activities.

· To identify possible activities for hemispheric cooperation and exchanges of information and experiences.

1.3 Progress of the Seminar-Workshop

The opening ceremony was presided over by Paulo Alfonso Romano, Secretary of Water Resources of Brazil. Brazílio de Araujo Neto, Director of Brazilian Coordination of Itaipu Binacional, welcomed the participants and stressed the importance of the Seminar-Workshop and the support of the General Secretariat of the OAS and of the Brazilian Ministry of Environment, Water Resources, and Legal Amazonia in bringing it about. He ended by speaking of the activities of Itaipu in the regional context of the Plata basin, especially in relation to the environment.

Next, Newton Cordeiro, Chief of the South American Area of the DRDE, expressed the pleasure of the OAS General Secretariat in being able to support the Seminar-Workshop, which gathered together specialists of great experience in dealing with one of the topics of high priority to the OAS. He said that, in general, demographic pressures and other demands on natural resources in Latin America increase its vulnerability to the effects of floods and other natural resources, and furthermore that the supply of food, energy, and shelter for the socioeconomic infrastructure and the satisfaction of other basic needs requires protection against natural hazards if it is to be maintained in a sustainable manner. He went on to say that floods, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions are natural events that are quickly forgotten even though they are among the environmental management topics facing the hemisphere, and that natural disasters are no more "natural" than the degradation of ecosystems through pollution and overuse; both are to a great extent a result of the way in which the countries' populations interact with their physical environments. He recalled the objectives of the Seminar-Workshop and thanked the Brazilian Secretariat of Water Resources and Itaipu Binacional for their valuable collaboration.

In concluding the opening ceremony, Mr. Romano congratulated the OAS General Secretariat for organizing the Seminar-Workshop and recounted the development of water resources in Brazil, in particular the creation of the ministry dealing specifically with this matter and the law establishing the legal and institutional framework for water. He also mentioned the economic importance of water use, the problems connected with its management, and the creation of the National System of Water Resources Management. He stressed the importance of democracy to the full development of water resources, multiple use of these resources, and the program of the Committees on Hydrographic Basins, in which the states of the Brazilian federation participate actively. He showed how important dialogue and discussion are in resolving problems and conflicts, including those concerning floods, and how the Brazilian Government is giving increasing attention to the presence and participation of citizens in decision-making. An example of this is the creation of the Citizens' Movement for Water. Finally, he thanked the participants from Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Venezuela and those from the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Environment Program, and the OAS for their presence in Foz do Iguaçu.

The agenda appearing in Appendix 1 was then approved by the participants, who are listed in Appendix 2. The two topics of the Seminar-Workshop were thereupon considered by means of presentations, panelists' comments, and general discussion.


Presentation: "The Largest Floods in the Plata River Basin"

Víctor Pochat - National Director of Water Resources, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Gilberto Canali - Superintendent of Environment, Itaipu Binacional, Foz do Iguaçu, Paraná, Brazil.

Christopher Ungate - Water Resources Management Group, Tennessee Valley Authority, Knoxville, Tennessee, United States.

Luz Helena Abello - Colombian Technical Unit/OAS Technical Cooperation Projects, Bogota, Colombia.

Presentation: "The 1987 Disaster in the Limón River Basin '

Julio Lescarbora - Hydrometeorological Adviser, Ministry of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, Venezuela.


Julio César Fossati - Adviser on problems of the Bermejo y Pilcomayo rivers, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Paulo Augusto Sanguinetti - Department of Civil Defense Planning, Brasilia, Brazil.

Juan Poveda - Ecuadorian Technical Unit/OAS Technical Cooperation Projects, Quito, Ecuador.

Presentation: "The 1996 Mississippi River Basin Flood"

Gerald E. Galloway - Dean of Faculty, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Washington, D.C., United States.


Antonio Eduardo Lanna - Professor, Institute of Hydraulic Research (IPH), University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Jeffrey Thornton - Senior Program Officer, Freshwater Unit, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya.

Alejandro Felicia - Chief, Program of Research and Development in Hydrology and Environment, Regional Littoral Center, National Institute of Water Science and Techniques (INCYTH), Santa Fé, Argentina.


Presentation: "Flood Mitigation Programs in the Magdalena River Basin'

Hernán Guzmán - Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAN), Bogota, Colombia.


Al Grosboll - Senior Adviser, Office of the Governor of the State of Illinois, Springfield, Illinois, United States.

Luiz Eduardo Ganoia - Superintendent of Administration of the Paraná Waterway, Ministry of Transportation, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Ciro Loureiro Rocha - Manager of Water Resources Policies, Secretariat of Urban Development and Water Resources of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil.

Presentation: "Flood Control of the Alto Paraná River Basin by the Brazilian Electrical Sector'

Alcides Lyra Lopes - Chief, Division of Hydrology, Department of Planning and Analysis of Energy Operations, Electrobrás, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Luc Mougeot - Senior Administrator, Center for International Development Research, Ottawa, Canada.

Marco Córdova - Environmental Advisory Commission of Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador.

Patricio Fernández - Director, CIMA Consultants, Santiago, Chile.

Presentation: "Regional Development Plan for Irrigation and Flood Control of the Guayas River Basin'

Félix Cabrera - Manager, Executive Unit of the Guayas Basin, Quito, Ecuador.


Abel Barroso López - National Director, National Commission on the Pilcomayo and Bermejo Rivers, Tarija, Bolivia.

Roberto Moreira Coimbra - Chief, Division of Control of Water Resources, National Department of Water and Electric Power, Brasilia, Brazil.

Roger Amisial - Coordinator, Inter-American Program OEA-CIDIAT, Mérida, Venezuela.

In addition, "General Environmental Considerations in Flood Mitigation Programs" and "A Case Study: The Pilcomayo River Basin" (between Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay) were the topics of special presentations by, respectively, Alfred Duda, Senior Environmental Specialist (Water Resources) of the Global Environment Facility, Washington, DC, and Luis Meyer, National Director of the Pilcomayo River Commission, Asuncion, Paraguay.

Three working groups were then formed to prepare the conclusions and recommendations for the Final Report of the Seminar-Workshop. They covered the following topics:

· Policy guidelines for reducing vulnerability to floods in river basins.

· Use of information on flood impacts in the preparation of investment projects and in the management and sustainable development of river basins.

· Hemispheric cooperation and exchanges of information and experiences.

After the meetings of the working groups the present Final Report, which contains the principal results of the Seminar-Workshop, was drafted. The Report was analyzed, discussed, and approved by the participants.

In the closing ceremony the results of the Seminar-Workshop were highlighted and the participants were thanked for their valuable presentations, clarifying discussions, and conclusions and recommendations. Thanks were also given to the OAS General Secretariat, for its initiative to hold the meeting, and to the Government of Brazil, through the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources, and Legal Amazonia, and to Itaipu Binacional for its excellent organization.

The participants, for their part, spoke of the importance of the Seminar-Workshop and the timeliness of bringing together specialists from government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private enterprises, and international organizations to exchange knowledge and experiences on the subject of the reduction of vulnerability in the agricultural, energy, and transport sectors to floods in river basins.

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