· Three bilateral working meetings were held in the region of Coquimbo to assess the impact of the project, as well as to advance measures that may be favorable for the territories and their populations.
Delegations from the Republic of Argentina (San Juan Province) and the Government of Chile, held working meetings from Wednesday September 26 in the region of Coquimbo, aimed at establishing and coordinating complementary actions for the development of the “Agua Negra” Tunnel project. The purpose of the effort is boosting the benefits and the opportunities for the community, as well as identifying negative external factors that may hamper its implementation.
During the opening session, the Mayor Claudio Ibanez pointed out, “This work is aimed at promoting the development of the “Agua Negra” Tunnel project, not only at the bidding stage –which continues to advance following the pre-qualification of the companies- but also with respect to the emerging concerns around the works, as the one presented by the commune of Vicuna, regarding the installation of the tunnel and the exit of vehicles through this population. We have assessed alternatives and have developed preliminary studies. I even talked to the Minister of Public Works, Mr. Alberto Undurraga, in order to coordinate additional efforts between that Ministry and the region of Coquimbo aimed at financing a Bypass alternative.”
As per the challenges addressed during the bilateral meeting, the President of the Regional Council, Mr. Eduardo Alcayaga, stressed the importance of the dialogue held with the community of Valle de Elqui. In this regard, the official stated: “We understand that there are concerns about how invasive the project may be with respect to heavy traffic of vehicles, but such worries may be reduced with the possibility -currently under assessment- of the bypass, which is aimed at preserving the beauty of our valley. It is extremely important for us to let the community know that we respect our landscape, our heritage; we will preserve all that, and we will struggle to guarantee that preservation.”
The “Agua Negra” Tunnel Territorial Integration Program (PTI) is aimed at preserving Valle de Elqui with all its natural heritage, but including the development of the required infrastructure works. This, within the framework of the sustainable development policy promoted by the Government of President Michelle Bachelet.
Mr. Cristian Lopez, an analyst from the Department of Studies of the Planning Directorate at the Ministry of Public Works, explained that “besides the associated studies on road improvement, the project has considered an extension of route 41-CH, in its initial section, and is also assessing alternatives for merchandise traffic through Valle de Elqui. These initiatives are currently evaluated by the regional road system directorate of the Ministry of Public Works, and may possibly be announced as concrete works for next year, as stated by the Mayor.”
There are nearly 120 actions identified through this binational work, and they are to be developed within 10 years, based on the schedule for the “Agua Negra” Tunnel project. The progress status will be soon reviewed, and the result should be a set of measures aimed at protecting cultural heritage and biodiversity, as well as at promoting socio-economic and productive activities such as mining, industry, and tourism, all of it during the construction and operation of the tunnel.
The National Planning Director for International Territorial Integration from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Public Works, and Housing of Argentina, Mr. Atilio Alimena, pointed out that “these achievements and projects advanced within the framework of integration and understanding –in this case by Chile and Argentina- have an impact over the entire region. The main focus of all of them is one thing, society, and if this dimension is not considered the result is poor, even if the work is huge.”
One of the main concerns of Argentina is achieving appropriate access to information, in real time, through a platform where all the data related to the actions defined by the Territorial Integration Program may be uploaded, including the status of the activities and the actions promoted by the IDB and both governments.
In conclusion, the Mayor of Vicuna, Mr. Rafael Vera, stated: “We are finally advancing, while carefully listening to the communities, and that is quite relevant. The presence of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has been a positive element as per the preservation of the Environment and the sustainability of Valle de Elqui. Because these two aspects should be a constant within the progress we expect from the “Agua Negra” Tunnel. We will support this project, as long as it does not ignore the voice of the neighbors from the commune of Vicuna, and the authorities got clearly this point today.”
The “Agua Negra” Tunnel stands out as the most important work in South America, as it will contribute to develop the Bi-Oceanic Corridor and to promote tourism, economic, and social development from Porto Alegre in Brazil, while expanding the commercial networks between Asia and the Pacific. Ten international consortia are currently under assessment, following their presentation of their technical and financial backgrounds in order to participate in the bidding stage of the project. These interested business come from China, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and Chile.
|Mayor Claudio Ibanez|
|Eduardo Alcayaga - President of the Regional Council|
|Cristian Lopez - Analyst from the Department of Studies of the Planning Directorate at the Ministry of Public Works|
|Rafael Vera - Mayor of Vicuna|
|Atilio Alimena - National Planning Director for International Territorial Integration, Argentina|