Posted by: ecodestination | October 6, 2009

The Peruvian Amazon, Pt. 1: New highway augurs trouble

Welcome to the Interoceanic Highway South. Sao Paolo, Brazil 4601 kilometers. Photo by NPR

"Welcome to the Interoceanic Highway South. Sao Paolo, Brazil 4601 kilometers." Photo by NPR

The Brazilian Government is investing part of the financing for a highway construction leading from its Atlantic coast through Peru’s Pacific coast. The last portion is being built in Peru as you read this.

The project will bring new jobs, merchandise, and other financial advantages to the national economy and Peruvians living in isolated Andean villages – as well as environmental destruction in one of the most untraveled and biodiverse rainforests on Earth, the Peruvian Amazon.

Brazil’s dream is “to finally reach the dream of three centuries, which is that even if there is not a Brazilian flag, at least there will be a Brazilian economy on the shores of the Pacific,” said Bruce Babbitt, current chairman of the World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. and former secretary of the interior during the Clinton Administration.

But…

The Peruvian Government, of course, is happy about the opportunities the highway will bring to its people and economy as well.

These developments are also enabling the increase of prostitution, unplanned pregnancies, and venereal diseases taking place. Not to mention the growth of illegal gold mining, which Peruvians in need hope will provide them a higher income.

Thousands of workers live along the road are assembling the highway into the Andes. Apart from the Interoceanic Highway, two other roads traversing the Peruvian Amazon are being forced into the Andes, also with heavy machinery, day and night, thanks to the Brazilian engineering and construction giant Odebrecht.

On the other hand, new shops have already been springing up along the highway to service passersby. One was opened by a woman who lives in an Andean village with a population of 250. You can imagine how much people in these circumstances would need a new source of income.

The Peruvian Government considers the project essential to bring prosperity all around.

Additionally, some hope that ecotourism will grow as a result of facilitated access. But while Peru has favorable protection laws, they are not enforced.

So how do you choose?

Alas, nearsighted governmental authorities have opted not to look into alternative ways to help these people.

It seems like a no-brainer for Brazil when you consider the country’s impetus: easier access to the Pacific to escalate trade with Peru and China, the latter a major business partner. But how practical is transporting soy beans by truck across a staggering amount of miles before you can sell or ship them overseas?

Brazil also plans to invest in five massive dams in Peru, whose purpose will be to generate energy for the massive country.

The moral of the Brazilian Amazon

Since the highway began to construction in the 1970s, unbridled deforestation has been ravaging the Amazon. Isn’t this enough?

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