Highway Poses a New Threat to Brazilian Rainforest

The Brazilian rainforest is, without question, one of mankind's major environmental assets. So much so that such relevant data as biodiversity and rates of destruction are at the fingertips of every concerned citizen. Nevertheless, a construction project co-sponsored by BID (Interamerican Development Bank) is threatening an appreciable portion of the rainforest in southern Brazil. Ironically, BID is in the forefront of environmentally concerned institutions. 

BR-116 is already one of Brazil's major highways. It will become even more important as a vital link of the MERCOSUR free-trade area, joining the principal cities of the member countries. For this reason duplication of the highway is being planned between the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Florianopolis. In order to meet the sponsoring agencies' schedules, design work is proceeding at breakneck speed. In one particular case, such haste may well be the reason for an impending ecological disaster. 
Most of the duplication is being designed as a new road parallel and adjacent to the existing highway. This is very sensible, as it minimizes destruction of the local vegetation, and barely affects the wildlife habitats. There is a swath of earth on either side of the existing highway, where decades of heavy traffic and other human activities have removed most vestiges of wildlife and native vegetation, and this is the obvious location for new construction activities. 

The section of highway located in Serra do Cafezal, crosses the Atlantic rainforest at a very vulnerable point. The region is an officially designated Environmental Protection Area and includes a private wildlife reserve, Fazenda Iterei. This sector is designated as "Lote 2" (km 339,2 ao km 366,8), on highway department plans, and the problem occurs specifically at "trecho 6". 
It is at this point that the highway designers have resolved to have separate lanes for the duplication. For a distance of about 7 km., the new lanes will be, between 300 and 600 meters away from the present highway. There are few human activities as destructive as a highway construction site. Some of the largest vehicles known to mankind move vast amounts of earth, produce artificial dust storms, and destroy all forms of native plant and animal life which are unfortunate enough to be in their path. The disaster will be compounded by destruction of existing pure water resources, consisting of a network of sparkling mountain streams. 

The proposed route will bisect Fazenda Iterei its sustainable nodel for the mountains and destroy an ecological continuum. Trees, hundreds of years old, and other plants will be uprooted and wildlife communities will be separated by this man-made barrier and cease to exist. Since hunting is not permitted, this region has become a sanctuary for countless groups of wild animals. Yet another assault against biodiversity is in the making. In addition to massive environmental damage, the proposed highway duplication is an unsightly intrusion in the midst of an exquisite rainforest. 
It must be made clear that there is no opposition to the construction of the highway. It is a very important project, linked to the economic well-being of millions of Latin Americans. The rainforest must not be destroyed, however. The authorities must change the design of the proposed duplication, in order to avoid destruction of a priceless ecosystem. A well-designed project will cause no harm to the environment, on the contrary, the unique nature of this beautiful landscape will be enhanced. 

Fortunately, there is still time to act. The main obstacle to overcome is bureaucratic inertia. There are many examples, the world over, of environmentally insensitive building projects which have been reversed, due to pressure exerted by environmentalists and the general public. The rainforest in general, and Serra do Cafezal and Fazenda Iterei in particular, depend on your support. 

Send an Email message, fax or post a letter to Brazil Environmental Minister Krause. 
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Source: http://www.NATIVUS.COM/alert_sos_i.htm