Brazil’s Cuiabá-Santarém (BR-163) Highway provides a valuable example of ways in which decision-making procedures for infrastructure projects in tropical forest areas need to be reformulated in order to guarantee that environmental concerns are properly weighed. BR-163, which is slated to be paved as an export corridor for soybeans via the Amazon River, traverses an area that is largely outside of Brazilian government control. A climate of generalized lawlessness and impunity prevails, and matters related to environment and to land tenure are especially unregulated. Deforestation and illegal logging have accelerated in anticipation of highway paving. Paving would further speed forest loss in the area, as well as stimulate migration of land thieves (grileiros) to other frontiers. An argument is made that the highway should not be reconstructed and paved until after a state of law has been established and it has been independently certified that sufficient governance prevails to secure protected areas and enforce environmental legislation. A waiting period is needed after this is achieved before proceeding with the highway paving. Above all, the logical sequence of steps must be followed, whereby environmental costs are assessed, reported, and weighed prior to making de facto decisions on implementation of infrastructure projects. Deviation from this logical sequence is a common occurrence in many parts of the world, especially in tropical areas.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alencar A, Nepstad DC, McGrath D, Moutinho P, Pacheco P, M del Diaz CV, Soares-Filho B (2004) The paving of the BR-163 and the challenges of sustainability: An economic, social and environmental analysis. Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), Belém, Pará, Brazil. 87 pp
Alencar A, Micol L, Reid J, Amend M, Oliveira M, Zeidemann V, de Sousa WC (2005). Deforestation in Amazonia: Going beyond the Chronic Emergency. Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, Brazil. 25 pp. http://www.estacaovida.org.br/pdf/pavimentacaobr163.pdf
Amazonas em Tempo [Manaus] (2004). Lula wants to restart stalled public works. 21 March. p. A-7
Amigos da Terra-Amazônia Brasileira. (2006) Under a concession, BR-163 would have a toll of R$900. Amigos da Terra-Amazônia Brasileira, São Paulo, Brazil. http://www.amazonia.org.br/noticias/noticia.cfm?id=198821
Arima E, Veríssimo A (2002) Brazil in Action: Threats and Economic Opportunities on the Amazon Frontier Imazon Série Amazônia No 19. Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente na Amazônia (IMAZON), Belém, Pará, Brazil. 22 pp.
Bolzon A, Sayago D, da Silva GT, Wehrmann M, Bursztyn M, Delamaro MC, Amazonas MC, Monteiro R, de Oliveira Junior RC, Bartholo R, Castro V (2006) Brazil. Integrated assessment and planning in the context of the sustainable Amazon plan: The soybean industry under the scope of the road BR-163. Final Report (Revision #2). United Nations Environment Programme, Brazil Office, Brasília, DF, Brazil. 128 pp.
Bonham-Carter G (1994) Geographic information systems for geoscientists: Modeling with GIS. Pergamon, New York, 414 pp.
Brazil, GT-Desmatamento (Grupo Permanente de Trabalho Interministerial para a Redução dos Índices de Desmatamento da Amazônia Legal). (2004) Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon. Presidência da República, Casa Civil, Brasília, DF, Brazil. 156 pp.
Brazil, MMA, (2006). Ministry of the Environment: Amazonia and Brazilian Development. Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA), Brasília, DF. 12 pp.
Castro ER, Monteiro R, Castro CP (2002) Report: Actors and Social Relations on New Frontiers in Amazonia: Novo Progresso, Castelo de Sonhos and São Félix do Xingu. Study of social dynamics on the frontier, deforestation and the expansion of ranching in Amazonia. Trabalho de Consultoria prestado ao Banco Mundial (Contrato – 23584 e 388135 - de 18/01/2002), Unpublished report, World Bank, Brasília, DF, Brazil. 141 pp.
Cochrane MA (2003) Fire science for rainforests. Nature 421:913–919
Cochrane MA, Alencar A, Schulze MD, Souza CM Jr, Nepstad DC, Lefebvre P, Davidson EA (1999) Positive feedbacks in the fire dynamic of closed canopy tropical forests. Science 284:1832–1835
Convênio DNIT/IME. (2005) Technical and Economic Viability Studies Concerning the Contruction of BR-163/MT/PA from Guarantã-do-Norte/MT to Santarém/PA. Ministério dos Transportes, Departamento Nacional de Infra-Estrutura de Transportes (DNIT) and Ministério da Defesa, Instituto Militar de Engenharia (IME), Brasília, DF, Brazil. 4 Vols. Available at: http://www.dnit.ime.eb.br/est_via_tec.htm
ECOPLAN Engenharia, Ltda (2002a) Environmental Impact Study: Paving BR-163-BR-230. ECOPLAN Engenharia, Ltda, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. 7 vols. Available at: http://www.dnit.ime.eb.br/br163.htm
ECOPLAN Engenharia, Ltda (2002b) Environmental Impact Report: Paving BR-163-BR-230. ECOPLAN Engenharia, Ltda., Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. 74 pp. Available at: http://www.dnit.ime.eb.br/br163.htm
Fearnside PM (1986) Spatial concentration of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Ambio 15(2):72–79
Fearnside PM (1987) Deforestation and international economic development projects in Brazilian Amazonia. Conservation Biology 1(3):214–221
Fearnside PM (1989) Human Occupation of Rondonia: Impacts, Limits and Planning. Relatórios de Pesquisa No. 5, Brasília, DF, Brazil: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). 76 pp.
Fearnside PM (2001) Soybean cultivation as a threat to the environment in Brazil. Environmental Conservation 28(1):23–38
Fearnside PM (2002) Avança Brasil: Environmental and social consequences of Brazil’s planned infrastructure in Amazonia. Environmental Management 30(6):748–763
Fearnside PM (2005a) Deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia: History, rates and consequences. Conservation Biology 19(3):680–688
Fearnside PM (2005b) Heavy load: The environmental cost of paving a soybean corredor in Amazonia. In Torres M (ed), Amazônia revelada: Os descaminhos ao longo da BR-163. Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), Brasília, DF, Brazil. 496 pp
Fearnside PM (2006) Containing destruction from Brazil’s Amazon highways: Now is the time to give weight to the environment in decision-making. Environmental Conservation 33(3):181–183
Fearnside PM, de Lima Ferreira G (1985) Roads in Rondonia: Highway construction and the farce of unprotected reserves in Brazil’s Amazonian forest. Environmental Conservation 11(4):358–360
Fearnside PM, Graça PMLA (2007) BR-319: Brazil’s Manaus-Porto Velho Highway and the potential impact of linking the arc of deforestation to central Amazonia. Environmental Management 38(5):705–716
Goodland RJA (1985) Brazil’s environmental progress in Amazonian development. Pages 5–35 In Hemming J. (ed), Change in the Amazon Basin: Man’s impact on forests and rivers. Manchester University Press, Manchester, UK. 222 pp
Holden C (1987) World Bank launches new environment policy. Science 236:769
IAG (International Advisory Group) (2004) Pilot Program to Protect the Rain Forests of Brazil, International Advisory Group (IAG). Report of the XXIth Meeting. Sustainable BR-163 plan in the Framework of Government Policies for Amazonia, Brasilia, 26 July to 6 August 2004. IAG, Brasília, DF, Brazil. 18 pp.
IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). (1981) Brazil: Integrated Development of the Northwest Frontier. The World Bank (IBRD), Washington, D.C., U.S.A. 101 pp.
IPAM (Instituto de Pesquisas Ambientais da Amazônia) (2005) The paths of the Cuiabá-Santarèm: Opportunity for sustainable regional development. IPAM, Belém, Pará, Brazil. Available at: http://www.ipam.org.br/programas/cenarios/br163/planejamento.php?session_id=7447fabd6c6d35 6cf7cedf0280584e16
ISA (Instituto SocioAmbiental) (2003a) Marina Silva and Ciro Gomes wrap up meeting on the Sustainable Br-163. Notícias Socioambientais 24/11/2003. ISA, São Paulo, Brazil. Available at: http://www.socioambiental.org/nsa/detalhe?id=1491
ISA (Instituto SocioAmbiental) (2003b) Minister of Justice signs decision reducing the Baú Indigenous Land. Notícias Socioambientais 09/10/2003. ISA, São Paulo, Brazil. Available at: http://www.socioambiental.org/nsa/detalhe?id=1437
Laurance WF, Fearnside PM (2002) Issues in Amazonian development. Science 295:1643
Laurance WF, Cochrane MA, Bergen S, Fearnside PM, Delamônica P, Barber C, D’Angelo S, Fernandes T (2001a) The future of the Brazilian Amazon. Science 291:438–439
Laurance WF, Cochrane MA, Fearnside PM, Bergen S, Delamonica P, D’Angelo S, Fernandes T, Barber C (2001b) Response [to J.P. Silveira]. Science 292:1652–1654
Laurance WF, Albernaz AKM, Schroth G, Fearnside PM, Bergen S, Ventincinque EM, da Costa C (2002) Predictors of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Journal of Biogeography 29:737–748
Laurance WF, Albernaz AKM, Fearnside PM, Vasconcelos HL, Ferreira LV (2004) Deforestation in Amazonia. Science 304:1109
Menezes MA (2001) O controle qualificado do desmatamento e o ordenamento territorial na região amazônica. Pages 103–151 In V. Fleischresser (ed.), Causes and Dynamics of Deforestation in Amazonia. Ministério do Meio Ambiente, Brasília, DF, Brazil. 436 pp
Nepstad DC, Moreira A, Veríssimo A, Lefebre P, Schlesinger P, Potter C, Nobre C, Setzer A, Krug T, Barros AC, Alencar AA, Pereira J (1998) Forest fire prediction and prevention in the Brazilian Amazon. Conservation Biology 12:951–955
Nepstad DC, Veríssimo A, Alencar AA, Nobre C, Lima E, Lefebvre P, Schlesinger P, Potter C, Moutinho P, Mendoza E, Cochrane M, Brooks V (1999a) Large-scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and fire. Nature 398:505–508
Nepstad DC, Moreira AG, Alencar AA (1999b) Flames in the rain forest: Origins, impacts and alternatives to Amazon fire. Pilot Programme to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forest (PPG7), World Bank, Brasília, DF, Brazil. 161 pp.
Nepstad DC, Capobianco JP, Barros AC, Carvalho G, Moutinho P, Lopes U, Lefebvre P (2000) Avança Brasil: The Environmental Costs for Amazonia. Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), Belém, Pará, Brazil. 24 pp. Available at: http://www.ipam.org.br/avanca/politicas.htm
Nepstad DC, Carvalho G, Barros AC, Alencar AA, Capobianco JP, Bishop J, Moutinho P, Lefebvre P, Silva UL Jr, Prins E (2001) Road paving, fire regime feedbacks, and the future of Amazon forests. Forest Ecology and Management 154(3):395–407
Nepstad DC, McGrath D, Alencar AA, Barros AC, Carvalho G, Santilli M, del CV, Diaz M (2002a) Frontier governance in Amazonia. Science 295:629
Nepstad DC, McGrath D, Alencar AA, Barros AC, Carvalho G, Santilli M, del M, Diaz CV (2002b) Response [to Laurance and Fearnside]. Science 295:1643–1644
Nepstad DC, Lefebvre P, Silva UL Jr, Tomasella J, Schlesinger P, Solorzano L, Moutinho P, Ray D, Benito JG (2004) Amazon drought and its implications for forest flammability and tree growth: A basin-wide analysis. Global Change Biology 10(5):704–712
Nimer E (1979) Climatology of Brasil. Instituto Brasilieiro de Geografia e Estatástica (IBGE), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 422 pp.
Ninni K (2004) A nova fronteira natural: O Amazonas cria a segunda maior reserva tropical do mundo para conter devastação de Mato Grosso. Época [São Paulo] 20 December 2004. 83 p.
Nunomura E (2004) Plan for the BR-163 is a target for NGOs: environmentalists criticize the public-consultation process for construction on an Amazonian highway. O Estado de São Paulo. 6 July 2004, p. A-10
Radiobras (2004) Fire in IBAMA office in Mato Groso could have been criminal. Radiobras 23 November 2004. Available at: http://www.amazonia.org.br/noticias/noticia.cfm?id=135400
Schneider RR, Arima E, Veríssimo A, Barreto P, Souza C Jr (2000). Sustainable Amazonia: Limits and Opportunities for Rural Development. World Bank, Brasília, DF, Brazil and Instituto do Homem e Ambiente na Amazônia (IMAZON), Belém, Pará, Brazil. 58 pp.
Schwartzman S (1986) Bankrolling disasters: International development banks and the global environment. Sierra Club, Washington, DC, 32 pp.
Silveira JP (2001) Development of the Brazilian Amazon. Science 292:1651–1652
Soares-Filho BS, Corradi Filho L, Cerqueira GC, Araújo V (2003) Simulating the spatial patterns of change through the use of the DINAMICA model. In: Anais XI SBSR, Belo Horizonte, Brasil. Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil. pp 721–728
Soares-Filho BS, Alencar AA, Nepstad DC, Cerqueira GC, del CV, Diaz M, Rivero S, Solórzano L, Voll E (2004) Simulating the response of land-cover changes to road paving and governance along a major Amazon highway: The Santarém-Cuiabá corridor. Global Change Biology 10(5):745–764
Soares-Filho BS, Nepstad DC, Curran LM, Cerqueira GC, Garcia RA, Ramos CA, Lefebvre P, Schlesinger P, Voll E, McGrath D (2005) Scenarios for deforestation in Amazonia. Estudos Avançados 19(54):138–152
Soares-Filho BS, Nepstad DC, Curran LM, Cerqueira GC, Garcia RA, Ramos CA, Voll E, McDonald A, Lefebvre P, Schlesinger P (2006a) Modelling conservation in the Amazon basin. Nature 440:520–523
Soares-Filho BS, Nepstad DC, Curran LM, Cerqueira GC, Garcia RA, Ramos CA, Voll E, McDonald A, Lefebvre P, Schlesinger P (2006b) Supplementary information to “Amazon conservation scenarios.” Online supplementary material for Nature 440:520–523. Available at: http://www.nature.com/nature
Turner FJ (1893) The Significance of the Frontier in American History. Pages 199–222 In Proceedings of the American Historical Association for 1893. Reprinted in expanded form: The Frontier in American History. Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, 384 pp
Veríssimo A, Cochrane MA, Souza C Jr, Salomão R (2002) Priority areas for establishing national forests in the Brazilian Amazon. Conservation Ecology 6(1):4. [online journal] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art4
Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) provided funds for travel in the BR-163 area (Grant 52.0177/2003-7 to M. Torres and 557152/2005-4 to P.M.F.). CNPq (AI 470765/01-1) and the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA PPIs 1-3620 and 1-1005) also provided financial support. Rede GEOMA (MCT) provided an overflight of the BR-163 area in May 2006. An earlier Portuguese-language version of part of this discussion was presented before the Interministerial Working Group on Deforestation (Casa Civil) and appears in a book published by CNPq (Fearnside 2005b). R. I. Barbosa, P. M. L. A. Graça, B. Soares-Filho, M. Torres, V. H. Dale, and four reviewers made useful comments. I thank P. M. L. A. Graça, A. Carneiro, and J. Costa for help with the figures.
About this article
Cite this article
Fearnside, P.M. Brazil’s Cuiabá- Santarém (BR-163) Highway: The Environmental Cost of Paving a Soybean Corridor Through the Amazon. Environmental Management 39, 601–614 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-006-0149-2