A unit, which currently operates under the Ministry of Federal Planning, is about to turn 30 years without reaching the goal that motivated its creation.
According to a report by the General Audit Office (AGN, for its acronym in Spanish), the Regional Commission of the Bermejo River, also known as COREBE "has not been able to agree and implement a master plan to establish a diagnosis, goals, actions, and priority of the work needed" in a basin of 123,162 square kilometers, of which 90.4% is in Argentine territory, with a population of 1,323,254 according to the 2001 census, the rest of the land belongs to Bolivia.
The COREBE is an interjurisdictional agency created in 1981 and is made up by the Federal Government and the provinces of Jujuy, Chaco, Formosa, Salta, Santa Fe, and Santiago del Estero. Both the decree and the law ordering their creation, say that reliance was intended to "take political decisions and actions necessary for comprehensive, rational, and multiple use of resources" of the river. However, the AGN stated that "despite being composed of representatives of the highest authorities (the Commission) did not complete spatial planning and execution of water projects."
However, other works were performed, but in the framework of the Strategic Plan of Action for the Bermejo basin, the PEA 2000, a joint initiative developed by Argentina and Bolivia since 1997. The Audit, which this year adopted its report on data collected between 2008 and 2009, states that the set of actions and projects of PEA 2000 totaled approximately $ 470 million to be executed in 20 years, but also highlights the jobs produced during the period under review, they "have been developed by the provinces without articulation among themselves "and were intended mainly for flood control. As an example, the agency lists the channeling of the Tartagal River and the defense of the right bank of Bermejo in Aguas Blancas, driven by Salta and the management of the Dobagan stream in Formosa: "All (the construction jobs) were of various sizes and made with the intervention of the COREBE, but do not respond to a comprehensive plan that takes into account all the problems," concluded the auditors.
The AGN recalls that of the joint tasks in PEA 2000, six environmental problems were identified. Such observations highlight the "land degradation, intense erosion, and desertification", in fact "critical conditions of salinization in approximately 7% of the basin area"; "Shortages in the use of water resources", a water deficit during the dry season that affects a third of Bermejo’s surface; "Degradation of water quality, bacterial contamination; loss of biodiversity, endangered species and deforestation; conflicts by floods and other natural disasters (several cities in the lower river basin are isolated); and deterioration in the living conditions of the population, loss of cultural resources, poor sanitation, infant mortality and high levels of unmet basic needs".
Moreover, COREBE also acts as secretary of the Binational Commission for the Development of the Upper Bermejo River Basin and the Rio Grande de Tarija, made up by Bolivia and Argentina for the use of the two streams. The Audit reports that the priority of this agency was to advance with binational dams Las Pavas, Arrazayal, and Cambarí. Thus, both countries conducted their consultations on the desirability of these works for hydropower generation. But the watchdog found that the Argentine side "didn’t define any studies establishing structural measures (water works) and non-structural (spatial and institutional order, programs for sustainable production, management of protected areas)," because the measures developed by the binational entity were not adopted.
One thing that COREBE was able to develop was an automatic monitoring that yielded useful information about the magnitude of the rains, overflowing rivers, and speed of peak time to warn populations. However, the audit states that it does not have a quality monitoring and the degree of water pollution. In that sense, "samples were taken in certain areas of Salta, Jujuy, Chaco, Formosa, and Bolivia, with mixed results, in which bacteria that exceed the maximum values specified in the Argentine Food Code for drinking water was detected", the watchdog completed its work, stating that "this campaign was only carried out due to lack of funding."