The current administration’s main justifications for rebuilding the BR-319 highway include improving access to health care and education in the region, as well as addressing national security concerns.
“Highways actually increase public health disparities, which also justify providing health care to municipalities,” Ferrante explained.
Ferrante and Fearnside said the road was not a “national security” priority because it was far from the Brazilian border. This information was announced by the Brazilian Army’s Amazon Region Commander in 2012, but was not mentioned in the Brazilian military’s 2008 National Defense Strategy.
Despite warnings from scientists about the potential adverse consequences the plan could have on the region, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva still considers it a top priority.
In June 2022, before being elected president, Lula emphasized the importance of the highway to the Amazon and Rondônia economies.
Last month, Brazil’s Transport Minister Renan Filho even proposed using the Fundo Amazonia to finance the reconstruction of the BR-319, which he called “the greenest road on earth.”
The potential consequences of rebuilding the BR-319 highway, including the risk of deforestation, could affect an area of more than 300,000 square kilometers in the Amazon, an area larger than the state of São Paulo, according to the results of a study co-produced by CPI (Climate Policy Initiative)/ PUC-Rio and Amazon 2030 Project.
The researchers concluded that the impacts of the BR-319 highway are expected to affect approximately 320,000 people in nine cities. BR-319 also has 49 Aboriginal territories, 49 protected areas and 140,000 square kilometers of unspecified public forest within its area of influence.
Fearnside revealed in his latest research that by 2100, the reconstruction of the BR-319 highway will increase deforestation not only around the highway, but also in areas directly connected to the BR-319 road, which is similar to the BR-319 highway. Compared to Highway 319, deforestation will increase by a staggering 60% in the projected case of deforestation without reconstruction.
The Amazon road network connecting BR-319 includes the federal highways BR-174, BR-230, BR-174 and the state highways AM-254 and AM-354.
There are other projects planned to build highways connecting to BR-319, including AM-366, AM-360, AM-343 and AM-356. Some of these highways will reach one of the best-preserved areas of the Amazon, the Trans-Purus region.
The BR-319 highway reconstruction plan is flawed in two fundamental aspects as stipulated by law: First, it lacks the economic feasibility study required by Law 5917/1973, known as EVTEA. Second, it failed to conduct necessary consultations with indigenous communities as required by International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 169 and Brazilian Law No. 10,088/2019.
Both Ferrante and Fearnside said the BR-319 highway reconstruction is the only infrastructure project in Brazil that lacks an economic feasibility study (EVTEA).
Based on Ferrante’s claims and supported by his research highlighted in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.
“Deforestation in the central section of the BR-319 highway has led to a 400% increase in malaria cases. This is an indicator that highlights the environmental degradation caused by the BR-319 highway that may lead to the emergence of new epidemics.”
The highway’s reopening will also allow agribusiness to expand into new areas, including activities such as cattle farming, soybean and palm oil farming, expanding monocultures for large-scale biofuel production, and satisfying fossil fuel companies, hydroelectric power companies Demand for dams, mining operations and other industries.
Ferrante called attention to Brazil’s recent attempts to dismantle its environmental agenda and the impact it could have on areas surrounding the BR-319 highway.
“Recent changes made by the National Congress during the Lula administration, including the reduction of environmental protection laws and the transfer of the CAR (Brazil’s National Environmental Registry of Rural Properties) from the Ministry of Environment, may lead to a further surge in deforestation within Brazil. BR-319 Highway highway area.
“This measure lacks the basic governance and environmental and economic feasibility required for the project.”
Ferrante had a final message for Lula’s government: “The Lula government has lacked a positive environmental record and recently expressed support for the BR-319 highway reconstruction plan.
“The government must reassess this unviable project and consider expert advice and the results of scientific research.”
Monica Piccinini is a freelance journalist focusing on environment, health and human rights issues.