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Published on : Tuesday, May 19, 2015
The controversial plan of setting up a railway network in the Amazon rainforest has been pushed forward by the Chinese premier Li Keqiang. The project has raised a lot of question on the environmental impact it will have on the indigenous tribes and the untouched environment of the basin.
The line is being laid to decrease trade cost between Brazil and Peru. But the track will open doors into the world’s most bio-diverse forest.
The vast project includes a canal through Nicaragua and a railway across Colombia. Starting near Açu Port in Rio de Janeiro state, the proposed track would connect Brazil’s Atlantic coast with Peru’s Pacific coast, via the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso and Rondônia.
There are a lot of logistic challenges involved as the track will pass through the dense forest of Amazon cutting through swamps, desert and mountains.
The project plan will have two routes. One is said to touch the Bolivian border which is close to the Devil’s Railway and is considered an ill fated link built in 1912. The link had cost 6000 lives and after the mishap the line was not used after the rubber industry fell.
A recent Boston University study shows that although China is claiming to adhere to improved guidelines in conserving the biodiversity of the area but conservationists have expressed their grave doubts on whether the project will maintain the indigenous land and not transform it in the name of development.
The areas of concern are the sconahua Reserve and Vale do Rio Juruá, which is home to one of the most spectacular ranges of flora and fauna on the planet. The route also crosses some of the last large tracts of standing forest in Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Acre, as well as indigenous and protected areas in the Amazon.
The railway project will open access to the previously remote regions. There are speculations that areas will be deforested and this project will attract mafias and cattle ranchers which will prove to be difficult for forest dwellers. But the determination that China has shown in going ahead with the work is unlikely to be shaken despite all controversy. This will also open new routes to tourism and the Amazon basin has always inspired awe and curiosity from adventure travellers.