New York, Oct 8 (UNI) Development in the Amazon region could lead to unprecedented damage to the ecology, conservationists have warned.
Development plans to improve transport, communications and power generation in the region have been drawn up to boost trade links between 10 economic hubs on the American continent, however, threaten to bring ''a perfect storm of environmental destruction'' to the world's oldest rainforest, according to a report from Conservation International.
Projects to upgrade road and river transport, combined with work to create dams and lay down extensive power and communications cabling, will open up previously inaccessible parts of the rainforest, raising the risk of widespread deforestation that could see the loss of the entire Amazon jungle within 40 years, the environmental group said.
A scientist with Conservation International Tim Killeen examined the projects funded under the multinational government-backed Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) and found that the environmental impact of individual projects had often been well assessed, but there had been a failure to look at their collective impact on the region.
''Failure to foresee the full impact of IIRSA investments, particularly in the context of climate change and global markets, will bring about a combination of forces that could lead to a perfect storm of environmental destruction,'' Dr Killeen said.
According to the report, damage to the ecosystem could have wide-ranging implications.
Improved transport networks throughout the Amazon will make it easier for inaccessible areas to be logged and burned, disrupting the ecosystems that support native species and indigenous populations, the report said.
''If Amazonian countries agreed to reduce deforestation rates by 5 per cent a year for 30 years, the saved forest would potentially qualify as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and generate more than 3 billion pounds a year over the lifetime of the agreement,'' Dr Killeen said.