The University of Manitoba has signed a deal with the world’s largest producer of hydroelectric energy, Itaipú Binacional, making the University an important partner in training engineers, agrologists, environmentalists and business entrepreneurs from Paraguay. The arrangement is worth approximately $2.5 million over four years.
The Itaipú Binacional Hydroelectric Dam is nearly eight kilometres in length, straddling the Seven Falls area on the Brazil-Paraguay border. After the Paraná River’s hydroelectric potential was discovered, the two countries joined forces in 1974 to create Itaipú Binacional. It is second only to the Three Gorges Dam in China in terms of generating capacity, but unlike its Asian rival, runs continually, generating about 100 billion kWh each year.
Half of the dam sits in Brazil and the other in Paraguay. The countries agreed that each would supply workers for their half, and if that were not possible, the counterpart would step in.
Compared with Brazil, however, Paraguay has a much smaller reserve of labour capable of filling the roles and this agreement with the University of Manitoba helps to increase the supply of trained Paraguayans. Under the agreement, Itaipú will sponsor Paraguayan graduate students at the University of Manitoba, approximately 10 per year and 40 in total, thus filling a critical need for highly trained personnel.
“I am pleased that the University of Manitoba can be of service to our friends in South America,” says Dr. David Barnard, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Manitoba. “This agreement will also provide excellent opportunities for future collaborative projects in Paraguay.”
He adds: “The University of Manitoba shares its talents and skills through partnerships with countries and industries around the world. This latest relationship further strengthens our role as an institution with a commitment to improving lives locally, nationally and internationally.”
Delegations from the University and Itaipú have been visiting back and forth for a few years, refining the project proposal and learning more about each others’ resources. The University of Manitoba invited Manitoba Hydro to also participate in the relationship relating to technical assistance and training, making the arrangement more appealing and beneficial to all partners.
A separate agreement will give University of Manitoba researchers from the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, led by Dr. David Walker, unhindered access to one of the most biodiverse and fragile rainforests: The Atlantic Forest. Located within the Itaipú Binacional jurisdiction, it is one of the few virgin tropical rainforests in the world. In return, the University of Manitoba will help develop an ecosystem management program and a sustainable eco-tourism industry for the 40,000 hectares under Itaipú’s managerial control.