Avança Brasil: Environmental and Social Consequences of Brazil's Planned Infrastructure in Amazonia
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“Avança Brasil” (Forward Brazil) is a package of 338 projects throughout Brazil; the portion of the plan to be carried out in Brazil's Legal Amazon region totals US$43 billion over 8 years, US$20 billion of which would be for infrastructure causing environmental damage. Brazil's environmental impact assessment system is not yet capable of coping with the challenge presented by Avança Brasil. Generic problems with the licensing process include stimulation of a lobby in favor of construction before decisions are made on the advisability of the projects, the “dragging effect” of third parties, whereby economic activity is attracted to the infrastructure but escapes the environmental impact assessment system, a tendency for consulting firms to produce favorable reports, a bureaucratic emphasis on the existence of steps without regard to the content of what is said, and the inability to take account of the chain of events unleashed when a given project is undertaken.
The environmental and social costs of forest loss are high; among them is loss of opportunities for sustainable use of the forest, including loss of environmental services such as biodiversity maintenance, water cycling, and carbon storage. The benefits of export infrastructure are meager, especially from the point of view of generating employment. Much of the transportation infrastructure is for soybeans, while the hydroelectric dams contribute to processing aluminum. The example of Avança Brasil makes clear the need to rethink how major development decisions are made and to reconsider a number of the plan's component projects.
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