- The Peruvian government has green-lighted the construction of a volley of new roads along its border with Brazil in the Ucayali and Madre de Dios regions.
- The most major of these roads would span 172 miles through the Amazon rainforest, connecting the towns of Puerto Esperanza and Iñapari.
- A new analysis finds around 680,000 acres (2,750 square kilometers) of primary rainforest will likely be put at risk from the road construction – an area the size of the country of Samoa.
- The proposed route of the main road would also cross two indigenous reserves and a national park.
Late last year, the Peruvian government gave the go-ahead for the construction of new roads along its border with Brazil in the Ucayali and Madre de Dios regions. The main road would span 172 miles, connecting the towns of Puerto Esperanza and Iñapari.
But such development has a cost. A new analysis finds around 680,000 acres (2,750 square kilometers) of primary rainforest will be put at risk from the road construction – including forest in protected areas and indigenous reserves.
The analysis was conducted by Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), a research program of Amazon Conservation Association and Conservación Amazónica. The MAAP team examined satellite data compiled by the University of Maryland to determine the extent of primary forest in the region and used the deforestation along the Interoceanic Highway as a proxy to estimate how much may be lost if these new roads are built.
They found that the Interoceanic Highway has an area of “substantial deforestation” (80 percent forest loss) 10 kilometers wide along its route. If this pattern holds true for the new batch of proposed roads, the analysts write that at least 680,000 acres – an area the size of the country of Samoa – may be lost due to associated deforestation activities.
Researchers have long linked road construction and deforestation. Next door in the Brazilian Amazon, for instance, a 2014 study published in Biological Conservation found nearly 95 percent of deforestation happens less than 5 kilometers (3 miles) from a road or navigable river.
That same study concluded that protected areas are generally less prone to deforestation even when roads exist. But conservation and human rights organizations are still concerned about the effects these roads may have on eastern Peru’s reserves. The proposed route of the main road would cross Madre di Dios Territorial Reserve, Purus Communal Reserve and Alto Purus National Park.
Peru’s Ministry of Culture warned that this road would have big impacts on indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation in the reserves.
Finer M, Novoa S (2018) Proposed Road would cross Primary Forest along Peru-Brazil Border. MAAP: 76.
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