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Experts decry controversial bill that would pave highway through precious Amazon rainforest lands — here’s what could happen if it passes

For now, the project is in limbo, as the Senate also needs to give its approval before things move forward.

For now, the project is in limbo, as the Senate also needs to give its approval before things move forward.

Photo Credit: iStock

A controversial bill could significantly set back efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest, and lawmakers would reportedly allow certain conservation funds to be used in the process. 

What happened?

Reuters reported in December that the lower house of Brazil’s Congress greenlit the repaving of a highway running through the Amazon rainforest — between the states of Rondônia and Amazonas — and money donated to the country for the purposes of preserving the forest would be used to fund the project. 

BR-319 argues that the highway is “critical infrastructure, indispensable to national security, requiring the guarantee of its trafficability.”

“We want a road that gives us the right to go back and forth, to transport goods, to buy food. This is the only highway in Brazil that is not paved, we cannot treat people from the North as second-class citizens,” Alberto Neto, the bill’s author, said, according to Climate Home News. 

For now, the project is in limbo, as the Senate also needs to give its approval before things move forward. 

Why is this concerning?

Researchers believe that the highway would spark a new wave of deforestation, with the logging industry possibly tipping “the rainforest past a point of no return,” as reported by Reuters. 

Even though the Amazon rainforest eliminates less carbon pollution than it used to because of the destruction of its trees, it still soaks up 25% of all carbon dioxide absorbed by land, per National Geographic

That makes it an essential part of regulating our planet’s temperatures, which have already risen to dangerous levels because of human activities. 

The Brazilian rainforest is also commonly referred to as the world’s largest medicine cabinet because roughly one-quarter of modern drugs come from its diverse plant life. 

The nonprofit Amazon Conservation Association has warned that if deforestation reaches 20 to 25% — an increase of just 3 to 8% compared to current levels — the Earth’s largest rainforest could be reduced to dry grassland, eliminating the numerous benefits it provides. 

What is being done to help?

Climate Home News reported that Renan Filho, Brazil’s transport minister, argued that the highway would help police monitor the area to prevent deforestation, leading some environmentalists to raise concerns about greenwashing.

The United States and Germany, both of which donated to an Amazon conservation fund now slated to finance the highway, have also issued statements indicating they do not approve of the project and are keeping their eyes on the situation, providing strong motivation for the money donated to climate causes to go toward its intended purpose.

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