Thursday, January 09, 2020

Deforestation Along the BR-163

The BR-163 is a 4,476 km long road which runs through the Amazon rainforest. Like a lot of infrastructure in the Amazon its very existence has led to accelerated deforestation in the areas it passes through. Along the BR-163 is an investigation into the effects of the BR-163 road on the Amazonian rainforest. Along the BR-163 uses satellite imagery to follow the route of the road from the Amazon River to Tenente Portela, in the south of Brazil. On this virtual journey we are shown how the road encourages urbanization, agriculture and mining. All at the expense of the Amazon rainforest.

The BR-163 starts in Santarém on the Amazon River. In 2003, the American food giant Cargill completed the construction of a terminal at the port of Santarém. This terminal was then enlarged in 2015. Millions of tonnes of corn and soybeans arrive at the port using the BR-163 each year. In 2004 the BR-163 was paved, which led to more traffic and the development of many more secondary roads.

Hand in hand with the development of these secondary roads has been the emergence of large farms along the BR-163 and accelerated deforestation. Even in protected areas along the roads trees have been chopped down and huge farms have built. As you progress through BR-163 you can see this deforestation for yourself in the clear 'fish bone' patterns the tree clearance has left either side of the highway.

Along the BR-163 concludes with an examination of the pace of deforestation in the Amazon. Up to around 2012 the scale of deforestation had been slowing in the 21st Century. Since 2012 the scale of deforestation has once again begun to rise. While the controversial Jair Bolsonaro remains president of Brazil the future doesn't look good for the rainforests of the Amazon.

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