Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Industrial Transportation in the Amazon

Over the last twenty years over 100 industrial river ports have been built on the Amazon. These ports help facilitate the export of commodities, especially soy, and help contribute to the destruction of the rainforest. More than 40 other major ports are planned in the Amazon. These ports when built will encourage even more agribusiness in the Amazon and contribute to further deforestation in Brazil.

Environmental website Mongabay has mapped out how the Amazon is fast becoming an industrial waterway for Brazil's agribusiness. In Multiplying Amazon river ports open new Brazil-to-China commodities routes the website has included a story map which visualizes all the industrial port facilities and soy storage facilities which have been built on the Amazon river system. The map also shows the amount of tree cover loss experienced in the northern rainforest over the last twenty years.

The 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium has been successful in stopping a lot of new deforestation in the Amazon for soy production. However the map shows that this has only led agribusiness to shift soy production to the Cerrado savanna instead. The savanna is now losing its native vegetation faster than any other part of Brazil, including the Amazon.

Of course it isn't only the Amazon river and its tributaries which are used to transport goods in the rainforest. Agribusiness in Brazil has also been behind huge new road building efforts in the region. For example, 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 native 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 along the BR-163 you can see this deforestation for yourself in the clear 'fish bone' patterns that 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.

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