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Date: Thu, 01 May 1997 10:12:49 +0100
From: Road Alert!
Subject: BR-116 (Brasil)

After reading below, please hassle The Brazilian Consulate General, 6 St Albans Street, London, SW1Y 4SQ - open to the public for visas etc 10 am - 4 pm most week days - nearest tube station Piccadilly Circus
tel 0171 930 9055 - fax 0171 839 9058

RIO DE JANEIRO--Environmental groups in Brazil are campaigning to block a highway widening project that they charge threatens to destroy a significant portion of Brazil's rainforest--a project co-sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank.

The highway they are concerned about is BR-116, one of the country's major traffic routes, linking the cities of Sao Paolo and Florianopolis. According to the environmentalists, plans call for a seven-kilometer (4.3 mile) section of the road running through Serra do Cafezal to become a divided highway, with new lanes to be constructed parallel to the existing road, separated from it by a distance of 300 to 600 meters (1,000 to 2,000 feet).

The problem, they say, is that this section of the road crosses the Atlantic rainforest at a very vulnerable point. The region is an officially designated Environmental Protection Area, they say, and includes a private wildlife reserve, Fazenda Iterei.

The reserve, only 90 minutes from downtown Sao Paolo, is filled with tall tropical trees, orchids and bromeliads and many species of exotic birds. It also has streams and waterfalls and a variety of mountain trails, and has been promoted as a site for ecotourism. Critics of the new road say it will be an unsightly intrusion in the midst of a scenic wonderland--as well as an environmental disaster.

The environmentalists argue that there are few human activities as destructive to the environment as a highway construction site, with mammoth machines moving vast amounts of soil, producing artificial dust storms and destroying all forms of native plant and animal life within their path.

"The disaster will be compounded," they say, "by destruction of existing pure water resources, consisting of a network of sparkling mountain streams."

They charge that the proposed route will bisect the wildlife reserve, destroying "an ecological continuum" and threatening the region's biodiversity.

The groups are calling upon all concerned people to send messages to Brazil's Environment Minister asking that this section of the highway project be canceled and sent back to the drawing board.

"It must be made clear," they say in a flyer, "that there is no opposition to the construction of the highway" itself, calling it "a very important project linked to the economic well-being of millions of Latin Americans."

But, they add, "the rainforest must not be destroyed" by the roadbuilders. "The authorities must change the design of the proposed duplication" of the roadway, they say, "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."

They add that there are many examples, the world over, of environmentally insensitive building projects that have been reversed because of pressure brought by environmentalists and the general public.

Protestors block Brazil road project
The Earth Times
By Jack Freeman
Copyright 1997 The Earth Times

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