The Brazilian government has announced a new step in the renovation of a highway that crosses the Amazon rainforest. But this operation is of particular concern to environmental associations.
Considered a feat, then abandoned, the BR-319 road is now an object of contention. This highway crosses the northeast of Brazil, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, and rests on the cities of Manaus and Porto Velho. The government has announced that it has granted a permit for a new phase of renovation of this expressway.
In the midst of the campaign for the next Brazilian presidential election, Jair Bolsonaro has promised to continue the renovation of the BR-319. This road was built in the 1970s, but its maintenance has deteriorated sharply. Its central section is covered in mud and is almost impassable during the rainy season, from December to June.
Marcelo Sampaio, Minister of Infrastructure, announced Thursday on Twitter the issuance of a permit that will allow the government to contract with companies to carry out plans for future works on this 400km stretch of road.
“By combining engineering and respect for the environment, we will bring Amazonian society out of isolation,” added Marcelo Sampaio.
The risk of accelerating deforestation
According to experts quoted by the British daily The Guardian, paving this portion of the highway made it easier for illegal loggers to enter the Amazon. A study estimates that the project would multiply deforestation by five by 2030. Effects are already visible around major cities, where other phases of work have already begun.
According to Paula Guarido, public policy researcher at the Institute for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Amazon (IDESAM) quoted by the French NGO Planète Amazone, the situation is already degraded.
“The January 2022 results are alarming. The deforestation rate was 339% higher than in January 2021, in the most taken area of BR-319,” she says.
January, February and April 2022 all broke Amazon deforestation records. The policy of President Jair Bolsonaro has accelerated this phenomenon, by going to meet several environmental agencies in his country.