The great new hope of Latin American businessmen is a 2,000 mile-long waterway called the Hidrovia. The project is likely to speed up shipping by straightening and deepening the Paraguay and Parana rivers.
The us $1 billion waterway, which would also run through Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, is expected to open an outlet to the sea for Paraguay and Bolivia and help the continent's new southern common market to integrate trade.
However, the prospect of the project does not exactly make environmentalists jump with glee. They fear that it would destroy the world's largest wetlands -- the Pantanal in Brazil -- an area that is home to 600 bird species. "The 5-country region can little afford the destruction seen in the Mississippi and Everglades," the Washingon-based Environmental Defense Fund warned recently about the project.