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 Brazils Amazon border regions to consolidate and
protect its sovereign territory. Today Brazil on the Move, the Governments
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. Rondônias
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 Brazils 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.
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.