Ten probable socio-environmental impacts of the proposed Transoceanic Highway between Rio Branco, Brazil, and Ilo, Peru, via Puerto Maldonado, Peru:
- Deforestation of lands ill suited to agriculture
- Displacement of tribal peoples, leading to conflict between them as they invade each other's land
- Increased risk of forest fires
- Proliferation of illegal crops such as coca
- Abusive fishing, using dynamite and chemicals
- Growth of slums
- Reduction of landscape and touristic values
- Loss of traditional cultural values
- Loss of species
- Illegal expropriation of tribal lands
From the paper "Impactos Socioambientales Probables de la Carretera Transoceánica (Río Branco-Puerto Maldonado-Ilo) y las Capacidad de Respuesta del Perú" by Marc Dourojeanni, published in La Integración Regional Entre Bolivia, Brasil y Perú, quoted in The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today by Ted Conover. For further information about the project and other projected negative consequences of building the road, see the Bank Information Center's summary of the project.
It's a tricky situation. I can certainly see the economic advantages of building the highway, but I'm always wary of placing economic interests ahead of such things as cultural and environmental preservation. On the other hand, Conover says the project is very popular among the Peruvians living in Puerto Maldonado and other places along the route, so much so that NGOs operating in the area who might work against the project are reluctant to speak out against it for fear of being marginalized. "All you can do," Conover quotes a Peruvian anthropologist working with an environmental NGO in Puerto Maldonado as saying, "is plan for its bad effects, and try to find ways to avoid them."