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South American development plan could destroy the Amazon

South American development plan could destroy the Amazon

South American development plan could destroy the Amazon
October 2, 2007

A plan to link South America’s economies through a series of infrastructure projects, could destroy much of the Amazon rainforest, warns a study by conservationists.

The report, written by senior Conservation International scientist Tim Killeen and released at the Latin American Congress of National Parks and Other Protected Areas in Bariloche, Argentina, says that careful planning could reduce the impact of the proposed Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), a scheme that seeks to increase trade between South American countries.

“Failure to foresee the full impact of IIRSA investments, particularly in the context of climate change and global markets, could lead to a perfect storm of environmental destruction,” said Killeen. “At stake are the greatest tropical wilderness area on the planet and the multiple benefits it provides.”

Killeen says that dams, infrastructure projects, and agricultural expansion could combine with logging and climate change to devastate much of the Amazon by 2050 unless policy-makers take steps to develop the region’s resources in a sustainable manner. Killeen notes that the Amazon could generate billions of dollars annually in carbon credits, while crops could be established on some of the 65 million hectares (162 million acres) of already deforested land instead of clearing new forest for cultivation.

“A visionary initiative such as IIRSA should be visionary in all of its dimensions, and should incorporate measures to ensure that the region’s renewable natural resources are conserved and its traditional communities strengthened,” Killeen wrote.

Roughly 18 percent of the Amazon forest has been cleared and converted. Deforestation rates in Brazil, which holds the bulk of the remaining forest in the Amazon, are closely correlated with commodity prices. As cattle, timber, and crop prices increase, deforestation rates rise.

This article is based on a news release from Conservation International.

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