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Infrastructure Integration and Environmental Preservation in the Amazon

Infrastructure Integration and Environmental Preservation in the Amazon

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Published by The Wilson Center
The Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA)—conceived during the 2000 Meeting of South American presidents—is meant to forge links between all South American countries by integrating three strategic economic sectors: transportation, energy, and telecommunications. To discuss these pressing issues, on January 16, 2008, the Brazil Institute and the Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) and Latin American Program co-sponsored a half-day seminar to assess the potential impacts of infrastructure projects planned or underway in the Amazon region.
The Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA)—conceived during the 2000 Meeting of South American presidents—is meant to forge links between all South American countries by integrating three strategic economic sectors: transportation, energy, and telecommunications. To discuss these pressing issues, on January 16, 2008, the Brazil Institute and the Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) and Latin American Program co-sponsored a half-day seminar to assess the potential impacts of infrastructure projects planned or underway in the Amazon region.

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Published by: The Wilson Center on Jul 15, 2014
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INFRASTRUCTURE INTEGRATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION IN THE AMAZON
BRAZIL INSTITUTE
SPECIAL
 
REPORT
APRIL 2008
Written by
Alan M. Wrightwith Priscilla Yeon
Brazil Institute
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Despite decades of degradation and incursions, the Amazon is still the world’s largest tropical forest. The Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA)—conceived at the 2000 Meeting of South American Presidents—is meant to forge links between all South American countries by creating an integrated continental economy, based on the physical integration of three strategic economic sectors: transportation, energy and telecommunications. While this visionary program is driven by the real need to promote the continent’s economic development and reduce poverty, failure to consider the full environmental and social impacts of IIRSA investments— especially in the context of globalized trade and climate change—may produce irreversible environmental devastation of global consequence. On January 16, 2008, the Brazil Institute in coordination with the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) and the Latin American Program co-sponsored a half-day, three-panel seminar at the Woodrow Wilson Center that brought together various groups interested in assessing the potential impacts of infrastructure projects planned or in execu-tion in the greatest tropical wilderness area on the planet. The first panel discussion focused on the recent report, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon Wilderness: Development and Conservation in the context of the Initiative for Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA),” writ-ten by biologist Timothy Killeen and published by Conservation International. Ricardo Gandour, executive editor of O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, moder-ated the second panel, which discussed the impacts of deforestation, climate change and new infrastructure projects on the Amazon. The third panel, mod-erated by Geoff Dabelko, director of ECSP, debated the regional dimensions of infrastructure integration and its impacts on the environment.
 
2
 THE STAKES
Director of the Brazil Institute Paulo Sotero introduced the seminar, noting that the Amazonian biome—by far the most expansive, continuous forest in the world—is spread out across eight countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname) and French Guiana, covering over 4.1 million square miles. The Amazon is home to more than 40,000 plant species, of which 30,000 are endemic and unique to the forest; 13,000 types of birds and more than 500 mammal species. While the future of the rainforest is an issue of global significance and great importance for all eight South American nations that share this enormous environmental and economic asset, with more than 65 percent of the forest within Brazil’s territorial domain, the Amazon is unmistakably Brazilian. And as owners and guardians of most of the Amazon, Sotero observed, “Brazilians are increasingly aware of the price of failing to protect and preserve it, and are therefore, ever more conscious of their responsibilities.These responsibilities carry with them the need to deepen the country’s as well as the world’s under-standing of how human activities—ranging from infrastructure projects to global warming—will impact the Amazonian ecosystem. In organizing this conference, Sotero explained, the Brazil Institute’s purpose is to bring together the “thinkers and the doers, on both sides of the issue.” By attracting a large international audience the Institute’s aim is to advance the debate and promote discussion about public policies that balance the region’s underlying need for economic development with the equally important concern of environmental preservation.Thomas Lovejoy, president of The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and a member of the Brazil Institute Advisory Council, contextualized the discussion by reflecting on the impacts of past infrastructure projects and devel-opment activities in the Amazon. A biologist who coined the expression “biodiversity,” Lovejoy stressed that the debate at hand “is about a race to the finish line” between two opposing trends to Amazon development: the deforestation as an “unintended consequence” of infrastructure and development initiatives, and conservation that strives to promote better use of resources, avoiding their depletion as well environmental destruction. Despite significant conservation efforts
1
 —more than 40 percent of the Amazon is registered by law as protected areas and indigenous lands—the pros-pect of new, large-scale infrastructure projects pose serious risks to the forest’s ecosystem. Roads serve as catalysts for environmental degradation; wherever road construction takes place, Lovejoy explained, it is followed by “spontaneous forms of colonization and
d
eforestation.”
2
 
2
“THE FUTURE OF THE AMAZON IS NOT ONLY CONCERN FOR ENVIRONMENTALISTS; IT HAS SERIOUS AND FAR-REACHING IMPLICATIONS FOR BRAZIL’S ECONOMY.”
1. Data produced by Brazil’s INPE indicates that from 2005 to 2007, deforestation in the Amazon declined annually from over 27,000 km
2
 in 2004 to a low of less than 10,000 km
2
 in 2007—a decrease of over 60 percent. Climate Scientist Carlos Nobre explained this reduction is in part a result of increased government enforcement and also a decline in Amazonian commodity prices. 2. According to studies produced by INPE, from 1991 to 1997 over 90% of all deforestation in the Amazon occurred within 100 km (62.14 miles) of primary roadways. Also, in the 1970s more than 86% of deforestation in the Amazon took place within 25 km of “pioneer” lands.
 
 
3
BRAZIL INSTITUTE
SPECIAL
 
REPORT
3A KNOWLEDGE-BASED PLAN TO DEVELOP THE AMAZON SUSTAINABLY
A major challenge for development in the Amazon is the lack of a success-ful economic model in the tropics. Carlos Nobre, one of Brazil’s leading climate scientists, noted to “develop the Amazon sustainably, we need to invent a new development paradigm. This new paradigm comes from the concept that we must valorize the heart of the forest: its biodiversity.In outlining his proposal to create this new paradigm, Nobre cited the established success of both the American and Brazilian aeronautical industries. “If you want to do something that has never been done before,” he said, referencing NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, “you need to have a strong knowledge-base, with dedicated centers of technology and research.This is exactly what Nobre proposes to do: bring knowledge to the Amazon by establishing a network of “Insti-tutes of Technology for Amazonia,” or ITAs. The design of the Institutes would replicate the model and structure of the prestigious Brazilian Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica, which emulated the organizational structure of MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
VISION
  To invent a new development model by creating a network of “Institutes of Technology for Amazoniafocused on technological education and advanced research with the main objective of globalizing the development capacity of the Amazon and producing value-added goods and services.
ORGANIZATION OF ITAs
Facult: 200 500 professors and researchersStudents: 1,000 1,500 undergraduate and graduate studentsResearch focus: forest and aquatic products; mineral resources; biodiersit and ecosstem
services
State-of-the art research laboratories and facilities
TWO-TIERED APPROACH TO EXPAND R&D
Bring 50 to 100 products based on biodiersit to global marketsEnhance region’s scientic base and entrepreneurial capacit
 - Harness appropriate technologies and full production chain
Emplo high-end technolog: biotechnolog, biomimicr and nanosciences
 - Draw-in international cooperation in areas of education and fundamental/applied research
* This proposal, developed and supported by leading experts from Brazil’s National Academy of Sciences, will be presented to President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and cabinet-level ministries for review.

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