31 March 2012

© Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

Cutting through the Brazilian Amazon from north to south over a vast distance of 1700 km is a highway called BR 163.  Once a cratered dirt road, impassable in the rainy season, the highway was built in the 1970's together with other two iconic roads in the Amazon, BR-384, going from Cuiaba to Porto Velho, and the Transamazônica road, which cuts across the region east to west.  Today it is known as the Soy highway as it runs from Cuiaba, the capital of Mato Grosso to Santarem, Para linking the agro-commodities production areas to the export ports in the Amazonas River.

In 2004, the Federal Government announced their intention to pave this highway to allow greater accessibility to the huge number of trucks that transport these agricultural products. Two years later, in 2006, the government promised to take a number of initiatives to mitigate the social and environmental impacts that paving the road would create.   

Six years later, nearly 80 percent of the highway has been paved at a cost of nearly one million Reais per kilometre. Yet many of the social and environmental initiatives planned have not been implemented. Of the 6.8 million hectares of protected areas created in 2006, many areas have now been reduced, boundaries redefined and only a few have management plans.  Lack of governance is prevalent in the area surrounding the road with considerable deforestation, cattle ranchers and loggers invading protected areas, land grabbing, and social conflict between communities and migrant labour workers. 

President Dilma has committed to protect the Amazon, but she is not fulfilling her promises. She is weakening environmental legislation, reducing protected areas, shrinking federal monitoring.  These decisions are paving the way for increased deforestation in the Amazon.

The Rainbow Warrior is in the Amazon to expose the drivers of deforestation and support the call for Zero Deforestation law. Show your support for the Brazilian citizens initiative to save the Amazon.