Transoceanic Highway to bring thousands of tourists to Peru Amazon

The Transoceanic Highway is expected to bring thousands of Brazilian tourists to Peru’s southern Madre de Dios department during the next three years.

The regional director of foreign commerce and tourism in Madre de Dios, Jorge Pineda, told Agencia Andina that the roadway cutting through the jungle shroud could usher in 150,000 tourists between 2008 and 2010. ¨Places like Acre and Rondonia have 800,000 and 2,000,000 habitants, respectively. If only 20 percent of them visit us, it would be an important number.¨

Pineda says his office is designing a tourist circuit in order to increase human traffic in the zone. The circuit will include recreational areas and restaurants serving local food in the departmental capital, Puerto Maldonado. However, the main attraction will continue to be ecotourism in Madre de Dios’ Amazon jungle, home to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.

The Transoceanic Highway is expected to cost Peru $892 million. It will pave or improve 2,586 kilometres, or about 1,606 miles, of highway between Peru’s southern coast and the border-town of Iñapari, in Madre de Dios Department. Peruvian authorities say it will promote development due to an increase in forestry, agriculture, and mining investment.

However, environmentalists say the highway will have grave environmental and social impacts on the region, and jeopardize sustainable ecotourism.

According to a 2006 environmental impact study led by ecologist Marc Dourojeanni, within 10 years the Transoceanic Highway will bring ¨a rapid increase in deforestation, degradation of natural forests, invasion of protected areas, increased forest fires, expansion of coca cultivation, uncontrolled gold exploitation, degradation of urban areas, the loss of biodiversity and major problems to water resources, including water quality for human use.¨ The study adds that ¨The highway will have severe social impacts, in relation to native communities living in isolation, increased Andean migration to the Amazon region, and invasion of native land in general.¨

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