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Bolivia runs the motorway construction of the Amazon National Park

In August last year, Bolivia approved a rather controversial law, which resulted in the final permission to build a new road in the Amazon forests. Discussions and quarrels over whether or not to approve a 305-kilometer-long artery have been under way for the second decade. In the meantime, the arguments of the supporters of the project on the safety of the building have been quite challenging to refute. EurekAlert writes about it.

In Bolivia, the three-phase construction of the "motorway" from Villa Tunari to San Ignacio de Moxos was approved in 2011, but virtually no major construction works have begun since the sub-sections of the marginal parts of the forest. Moving forward is the whole thing now, when the planned route was straightforward and significantly shortened. The "discounted" project, with an estimated cost of $ 405 million (co-financed by the neighboring Brazil Development Bank), still has one significant flaw in beauty. In its current design, it runs 180 kilometers across the Isiboro Sécure National Park (TIPNIS), which covers not only exceptionally valuable natural habitats, but also the home territories of four indigenous tribes .

Road? Just a narrow break through the trees

Two decades of persistent discussion of the economic benefits and practical necessity of this transport artery are, on the part of the promoters of the project, marked by some kind of interpretive abbreviation. Even the current president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, claims that the motorway is nothing more than "a mere 180-kilometer-long and ten-meter-wide jungle stripe . " And if there is only a "loss" of the 180-hectare forest, the National Park with 1,372,180 hectares should stand without any damage. And that's something the nature guard, including the TIPNIS board of directors, definitely disagrees with. They consider it unreasonable distortion.

Based on past experience from other South American locations, each leading road forests can see potential future major disruptions. Proving this claim is not that difficult, just look at other South American forest sites. Once a single road had been set up, it began to run from this main artery to the sides and to branch off a network of smaller paths and bridges. In the field of the forest, now accessible, the lumberjacks will expand. And behind them came farmers and farmers. Gold coins and oil miners. The ten-meter wide strip of road is growing by the power line, and soon there will be more. From the artery, it will soon become an insurmountable obstacle for animals that will disappear from a fragmented and accessible territory, stripped of tree cover.

The deforestation is long gone

In the debate about whether or not TIPNIS can stop the opening of the road, and with what consequences, the biostatist Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares from the University of Helsinki has now joined. "Potential damage to road construction is going to be solved a lot now, but very little has been said here about the impact of human presence and roads on TIPNIS already." Fernández-Llamazares simply carried out an analysis of the cover of trees over a few localities at the edges of the national park, which "revived" after the commencement of partial construction works. Result? Between 2000 and 2014 (especially in the last three years of this period), TIPNIS came up with 46,000 hectares of trees. Where? Where the first roads appeared.

In stretches where the first embryos of the road are already, the deforestation rate increased by 58% in a five-kilometer lane along the road. "It's not about what might happen in the future," says Fernández-Llamazares. "TIPNIS faces massive deforestation, and construction of the motorway has not even begun." It seems unbelievable that one of Bolivia's most beautiful and ecologically significant national parks can face such massive deforestation. The disclosure of the rest of TIPNIS would be similar in this context to the opening of Pandora's cabinet. It would launch a cascade of environmental problems.

Author: Radomír Dohnal

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