By Jan Rocha
29 August 2016
SÃO PAULO (Climate News Network) – China’s fast-rising population and its burgeoning economy make steep demands on natural resources, so steep that Beijing is searching constantly for supplies from overseas. And it wants to obtain them, naturally, as cheaply as it can.
Now in prospect is China’s trans-Amazon railway – a 3,300 mile-long (5,000 km) artery to link the soya-growing areas and iron ore mines of Brazil to the southern Peruvian port of Ilo, providing a cheaper, shorter route than the Panama Canal. The plan was reported originally on the Diálogo Chino website [pdf].
Feasibility studies on three different trajectories were carried out by the China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group (CREEC). The route preferred by the Chinese, because it is cheaper and avoids the complex engineering work needed to traverse the Andes, would instead pass through heavily forested areas in the Amazon, home to many indigenous groups in both Brazil and Peru.
Miguel Scarcello, a geographer, from the NGO SOS Amazônia, [Portuguese only] says this route for the railway will also cross the headwaters of many rivers.
Both Brazilian and Peruvian environmental protection agencies have criticised those who chose the route for showing little concern for its impacts. The Peruvian ministries of culture and the environment said that native communities must be consulted.
But CREEC representatives told a Brazilian senate subcommittee that the responsibility for conducting studies on the environmental viability of the railway lay with Brazil and Peru.
A study carried out by Brazil’s state-run rail operator, VALEC [Portuguese only], concluded that, besides impacting sensitive ecosystems, the railway would also require the construction of an entire town in the heart of the Amazon to house all the workers it employed. It would also have to cope with tracks of two different widths – the 1.6m gauge used in Brazil, and the standard gauge, 1.4m, in Peru. [more]