Brazil '98: Introduction
Brazil '98: Participants
Brazil '98: Map of Brazil
Brazil '98: Itinerary
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Introduction
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rio de Janeiro
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rondonio
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Roads to hell
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Deforestation
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Acre
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The working day of a Rubber Tapper in Acre
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The Chico Mendes story
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Manaus
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Para
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Dam Busters
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The Gold Rush and bombing of air strips
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Brasilia D.F.
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rio de Janeiro and the return
Brazil '98: Debates
Brazil '98: Sponsors
Brazil '98: Brazil Facts

Roads to hell

Road building projects are a major source of controversy in the Brazilian Amazon. The TransAmazon highway running east to west across the Amazon and the Belém-Brasília highway, both constructed in the 1960s, have been heavily criticised by environmentalists for the deforestation they caused in the Amazon. A more recent road project criticised by environmentalists is a key element of the Calha Norte Project. This is a military project designed to aid the colonisation of Brazil’s Amazon border regions to consolidate and protect its sovereign territory. Today Brazil on the Move, the Government’s national infrastructre programme is the focus of environmentalists’ criticisms. It includes road construction, gas pipelines, waterways, railways, massive oil refineries and grain terminals.
Public and private investment from Asian, European and US investment banks, multinational agencies and Brazil itself, will be concentrated along three major development corridors from the city of Manaus at the centre of the Amazon region out to the Caribbean through Guyana and Venezuela; from southern Brazil out to the Pacific through Bolivia, Peru and Chile; and from central Brazil to its Atlantic coastal ports.
If constructed, these corridors will allow Brazil to greatly increase the quantity of its regional and international trade and lower the costs of its exports by vastly reducing the cost of transport and access to ports. It is being implemented at a time when South American states are forming into free trade blocks, such as Mercosur (the largest South American free trade block which includes Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) and when the region is becoming an increasingly important trade partner for Europe and Asia.
The majority of these projects will pass through and affect the Amazon region. Rondônia’s neighbouring Amazon state, Acre, will be affected by the extension and paving of a roadway through the Amazon which will give Brazil direct access to Pacific coastal ports.
Bordered by Peru and Bolivia, Acre is the closest area of Brazilian territory to the Pacific coast. The distance from the Brazilian border with Peru in Acre, to the Peruvian capital and port of Lima located on the Pacific, is a mere 580 kilometres. Currently, Brazil has no direct road access to such coastal ports on the Pacific. Instead much of the goods produced in the western and central regions of Brazil have to take a long and expensive journey to Asian markets via Brazil’s Atlantic ports and through either the Panama Canal to the north or the Magellan Strait in the south.
There are two proposed roadway solutions to this problem. First the rehabilitation and completion of the BR-364 highway, which begins in Cuiabá, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, runs through Acre and finishes at Lima. The second involves the completion and rehabilitation of the BR-317 highway, which runs from Rio Branco, through Peru and which may end at southern Peruvian or northern Chilean Pacific ports.
Environmentalists have objected to the completion of the road. They argue that it will encourage logging and cattle ranching, leading to further deforestation. It has also been argued that the BR-364 could become a new drug trade route, giving cocaine traders from the Andean region easier access to the Atlantic and so to Europe. Such objections suggest that the massive transport and energy projects of Brazil on the Move will inevitably be destructive for the region. Critics argue that the environmental costs outweigh the opportunities that such road schemes can create for the people of the Amazon, Brazil and South America.