Journalist Sue Branford and social scientist Maurício Torres spent a month learning about Ferrogrão (Grainrail), one of the newest threats to the Brazilian Amazon – first meeting with government officials in Brasilia and then travelling along the proposed route, speaking to both sides in the heated debate over its construction. This the first of their reports.
The BR-163 highway is being overwhelmed with truck traffic moving soy from the interior state of Mato Grosso to ports on the Tapajós River, where the cargo is moved to barges taking it down the Amazon for export to the EU and China. Soy farmers and transnational commodities companies say the answer is a new Amazon railway.
Ferrogrão (Grainrail) would stretch for 934 kilometers (580 miles), running parallel to the BR-163, from northern Mato Grosso to the port of Miritituba on the Tapajós River. Proponents argue the new rail line would cut freight costs, while reducing shipment times and backlogs, and even decrease greenhouse gas emissions due to transport.
Conservationists and indigenous groups strongly oppose the plan, saying that the railroad threatens the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado, would likely have harmful impacts on three indigenous groups, and would open 14 protected areas to illegal intruders, including loggers and ranchers.
Grainrail has yet to be green lighted, maybe due to Brazil’s political and economic instability. Investors may be waiting to see how the election of Jair Bolsonaro might impact the nation – possibly opening the way for much longed-for Amazon industrial waterways. This story is the first in an exclusive Mongabay series about Grainrail.
Find in the report this comment about the investments in infrastructure taking place in Mato Grosso and in the Amazon:
“New roads, railways, dams and shipping routes will inevitably aggravate the serious problems of deforestation and create new social-spatial tensions,” said Antonio Ioris, from the University of Cardiff. “Once again [the authorities] are invoking an obtuse productivist logic, according to which ‘the more production, the better’ without questioning the long-term consequences. Agribusiness is defended as if it were unquestionably a benefit to the whole population, ignoring the fact that its unbridled expansion leaves a legacy of environmental degradation and even more poverty.”
Read the full report at: https://news.mongabay.com/2018/10/grainrail-2nd-revolution-in-brazilian-agribusiness-and-amazon-threat/