Photos: Development and destruction by the Trans Amazonian Highway

UPDATED ON OCT 10, 2019 05:18 PM IST
A car drives along a section under construction of the Trans-Amazonian highway (BR230) near Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest. The BR230 and BR163 are major transport routes in Brazil that have played a key role in the development and destruction of the world’s largest rainforest, now being ravaged by fires. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)
Trucker Erik Fransuer (L) rests on hammocks with others at a gas station. Fransuer spends months driving back and forth on highways that cut through the Amazon delivering soy or corn to river ports. “I like the freedom of being on the road,” Fransuer said. He spends at least 12 hours a day sitting in his big rig listening to fast-paced music as he bounces along the highways constructed nearly 50 years ago and somehow still not finished. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)
Meter-wide potholes, bone-jarring corrugations, rickety wooden bridges and billowing red dust that wipes out visibility along dirt sections of the mostly two-lane roads make them hazardous to navigate at the best of times. “That way, there’s no road,” says Fransuer, gesturing in the direction of the BR163 connecting Ruropolis and Santarem, which until recently was a rough dirt track. But it is changing. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)
Eager to develop the Amazon to bolster Brazil’s weak economy, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government this year plans to finish asphalting the 1,770-kilometer BR163 stretching north from Cuiaba the capital of the central-west state of Mato Grasso, Brazil’s grain-growing powerhouse to Santarem. Road workers are also paving sections of the more than 4,000-kilometer BR230, known as the Trans-Amazonian highway, which cuts across the rainforest from the Atlantic coast city of Joao Pessoa to Labrea in the west. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)
The highways were built by the military dictatorship in the early 1970s to populate the remote region, which it saw as deserted -- notwithstanding the indigenous tribes and traditional communities living there -- and vulnerable to foreign invasion. Deforestation followed as a wave of pioneers -- rural poor enticed to the rainforest on the promise of land and a better future -- began clearing jatoba, itauba, marupa and cedar for their crops. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)
Where virgin forest once stood, herds of Brahman cattle graze on pasture or huge machines harvest grain. Newly deforested areas were scorched by recent blazes that singed the primary forest, despite a burning ban in the Amazon following an international outcry. The smell of smoke hung in the air until the rains finally came. The highways, and dirt roads branching off them, have fueled illicit activities in the region, such as wildcat mining and land grabs. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)
A view of a sawmill in Moraes Almeida town, along a section of the trans Amazonian highyway, in Itaituba. Travel times are worse during the wet season from November to June, when sections of the highways turn into thick mud, or when hundreds of wildcat miners block a highway for days to demand legal status, like they did recently in Moraes Almeida, which straddles the BR163. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)
Temperatures have risen in the region as a result of deforestation, locals say. Expanding farming has also driven up land and house prices, and replaced food crops that previously supplied the local market, says Sandro Leao, an economics professor at the Federal University of Western Para. Wages and employment, however, have not kept pace. And cell phone service is non-existent outside the big towns. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

A car drives along a section under construction of the Trans-Amazonian highway (BR230) near Ruropolis, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest. The BR230 and BR163 are major transport routes in Brazil that have played a key role in the development and destruction of the world’s largest rainforest, now being ravaged by fires. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

Trucker Erik Fransuer (L) rests on hammocks with others at a gas station. Fransuer spends months driving back and forth on highways that cut through the Amazon delivering soy or corn to river ports. “I like the freedom of being on the road,” Fransuer said. He spends at least 12 hours a day sitting in his big rig listening to fast-paced music as he bounces along the highways constructed nearly 50 years ago and somehow still not finished. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

Meter-wide potholes, bone-jarring corrugations, rickety wooden bridges and billowing red dust that wipes out visibility along dirt sections of the mostly two-lane roads make them hazardous to navigate at the best of times. “That way, there’s no road,” says Fransuer, gesturing in the direction of the BR163 connecting Ruropolis and Santarem, which until recently was a rough dirt track. But it is changing. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

Eager to develop the Amazon to bolster Brazil’s weak economy, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government this year plans to finish asphalting the 1,770-kilometer BR163 stretching north from Cuiaba the capital of the central-west state of Mato Grasso, Brazil’s grain-growing powerhouse to Santarem. Road workers are also paving sections of the more than 4,000-kilometer BR230, known as the Trans-Amazonian highway, which cuts across the rainforest from the Atlantic coast city of Joao Pessoa to Labrea in the west. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

The highways were built by the military dictatorship in the early 1970s to populate the remote region, which it saw as deserted -- notwithstanding the indigenous tribes and traditional communities living there -- and vulnerable to foreign invasion. Deforestation followed as a wave of pioneers -- rural poor enticed to the rainforest on the promise of land and a better future -- began clearing jatoba, itauba, marupa and cedar for their crops. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

Where virgin forest once stood, herds of Brahman cattle graze on pasture or huge machines harvest grain. Newly deforested areas were scorched by recent blazes that singed the primary forest, despite a burning ban in the Amazon following an international outcry. The smell of smoke hung in the air until the rains finally came. The highways, and dirt roads branching off them, have fueled illicit activities in the region, such as wildcat mining and land grabs. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

A view of a sawmill in Moraes Almeida town, along a section of the trans Amazonian highyway, in Itaituba. Travel times are worse during the wet season from November to June, when sections of the highways turn into thick mud, or when hundreds of wildcat miners block a highway for days to demand legal status, like they did recently in Moraes Almeida, which straddles the BR163. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

Temperatures have risen in the region as a result of deforestation, locals say. Expanding farming has also driven up land and house prices, and replaced food crops that previously supplied the local market, says Sandro Leao, an economics professor at the Federal University of Western Para. Wages and employment, however, have not kept pace. And cell phone service is non-existent outside the big towns. (Nelson Almeida / AFP)

About The Gallery

Eager to develop the Amazon to bolster Brazil's weak economy, President Jair Bolsonaro's government this year plans to finish asphalting the 1,770-kilometer (1,100-mile) BR163 stretching north from Cuiaba, the capital of the central-west state of Mato Grasso, Brazil's grain-growing powerhouse to Santarem. The BR230 and BR163 are major transport routes in Brazil that have played a key role in the development and destruction of the world's largest rainforest, now being ravaged by fires.

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