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Environmentalists oppose Amazon road proposal

by Staff Writers
Brasilia (AFP) April 16, 2009
Brazil's top environmental groups on Thursday warned of serious damage to the Amazon rainforest if a proposal to allow unrestricted road paving is approved.

The measure was quietly slipped into legislation aimed at stimulating economic growth that Brazil's Chamber of Deputies approved Monday. It still needs approval in the Senate and then the president's signature to become law.

"Road paving is the largest vector of deforestation in the Amazonia," 30 environmental groups said in a joint statement.

"Historically, 75 percent of the deforestation of the region happened along paved highways."

The real goal of the measure, the groups say, is to pave a road between the Amazon river city of Manaus to Porto Velho, some 765 kilometers (475 miles) to the southwest in Rondonia state.

"We consider the paving of highway BR-319 unacceptable," the statement read.

The road would "open the Amazon's most remote and preserved region to disorganized occupation."

The measure "would drastically harm the Amazonia," former environmental minister Marina Silva told the daily O Globo.

The legislators "are carrying out scorched earth politics with environmental legislation," she said.

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