Gran Chaco

Gran Chaco is an extensive lowland plain found in central South America. This land is also called Chaco Plain. The size of Gran Chaco is estimated to be 647, 500 square kilometers. It is not densely populated and is divided among Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. According to records, this place is where the hottest temperatures in the southern continent were observed. As you go east, the weather becomes increasingly humid and on the opposite west side, the weather becomes increasingly dry.

The place has a section called Chaco Boreal divided between Paraguay and Bolivia as it is found in the north of Pilcomayo River and the west of Paraguay River. Gran Chaco is usually dry, forming swamps in the rainy season. It has a dense forest rich with quebracho trees where tannin is extracted and serves as the primary source of livelihood there. Cattle ranching has also been a source of income and this mainly caused the deforestation in the area, especially near the side of Paraguay. Along the south of Pilcomayo River and north of the Bermejo River, the Chaco Central lies. It is also rich with quebracho trees and cotton plants. Meanwhile, below the Bermejo River lies Chaco Austral. The inhabited part of Gran Chaco is located along its eastern part.

It is said that the productive parts of Gran Chaco lies along Bermejo, Paraguay, and the Pilcomayo River. Aside from tannin, timber is also a main source of livelihood. Also, wood from the palo alto may be a source of guaiac, which is an oil used for making soap. Down in the lower part of Gran Chavo, Paraguayans have learned how to cultivate mate. Generally, Gran Chavo soil is very fertile, sandy alluvial, and high in phosphorous. This makes it suitable for agriculture. On a negative note, the weather in Gran Chaco makes the soil prone to erosion due to a six-month dry season and frequent dust storms.

This piece of land has usually been involved in territorial disputes through the years. Between 1932-1935, the Chaco War commenced upon the3 discovery of Chaco Boreal’s barren section which had oil deposits. It was located at the foot of the Bolivian Andres and the war existed between Bolivia and Paraguay. This is not the first time this plain has been involved in a conflict. Conflicts have been arising since 1810. In the beginning, Gran Chaco was originally a part of Bolivia but they only saw this land as a wasteland. Paraguayans soon settled there and even their soldiers drove away the native settlers.

This allowed Paraguayan economy to boom upon the discovery of quebracho gathering and cattle raising in the place. The conflict further deepened as Bolivia attempted to transport the oil they have extracted using the Paraguay River but then, Paraguay refused. With this, almost a hundred were killed and the war only stopped when both parties were too tired to fight. Finally, in 1938, Paraguay and Bolivia signed a treaty. Three fourths of Chaco Boreal was given to Paraguay, Bolivia was granted access to Paraguay River and Puerto Casado railway, and a Bolivian port was set to be constructed.