March 19, 2000
Highway projects could destroy huge swath of Amazon rain forest

                  SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Government plans to repair and pave four
                  highways in northern and central Brazil could devastate a huge swath of
                  Amazon rain forest, covering an area more than twice the size of Portugal,
                  the Folha de Sao Paulo reported on Sunday.

                  The report said the work to be done on the four highways -- 3,500
                  kilometers (2,170 miles) of roads that cut through the states Mato Grosso,
                  Para, Amazonas and Roraima -- could lead to the deforestation of up to
                  180,000 square kilometers (72,000 square miles) of rain forest over the next
                  25 to 30 years.

                  The repair and paving project is part of the government's economic
                  development and integration program known as "Avanca Brasil," Portuguese
                  for Advance Brazil.

                  The newspaper's report was based on a study prepared by three
                  non-governmental organizations -- two Brazilian and one American, the
                  Woods Hole Research Center of Massachusetts.

                  The study's calculations were based on "historical patterns" of deforestation
                  that occurred in other Amazon highways.

                  The government's plans "endanger the sustainable development of the
                  Amazon region," Thomas Lovejoy, a World Bank environmental consultant,
                  told the Folha de Sao Paulo.

                  The study also warns that the government's plan could cause another
                  187,000 square kilometers (74,800 square miles) of rain forest to be
                  destroyed by fire.

                  The improved highways will attract small farmers and cattlemen who
                  traditionally resort to slash-and-burn methods to clear land, thus increasing
                  the risk of forest fires.

                  According to the newspaper, the government would not comment on the
                  study, but said it was dedicating "special attention" to the possible negative
                  impact its development projects could have on the environment.

                   Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.