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Action Alert: Massive Gas Pipeline to Pierce the Amazon

Project will devastate South America's rainforests, water and climate

By, a project of EcoInternet - March 22, 2006

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Additional Background

Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina plan to build a massive natural gas pipeline of up to 9,000 km in length from Venezuela to Argentina through Brazil's Amazon rainforest. Construction of the pipeline would be the most ambitious physical infrastructure initiative in South America's history, costing up to $25 billion and taking up to seven years to build. The pipeline would pierce the heart of the Amazon and ensure its destruction as a large, operable whole. It would devastate rainforests, water resources, the climate and indigenous populations across a huge swathe of South America.

The pipeline would devastate the Amazon rainforest's environment. Large areas of pristine rainforests will be destroyed during construction, and new roads will open the rest for colonization by ranchers and loggers. Historically rainforest for 50 kilometers on each side of new roads are cleared within years of construction. The multitude of waterways traversing the Amazon will be polluted during construction and inevitable pipeline leaks. The pipeline will contribute to global warming through deforestation and the production of oil to access the gas.

The pipeline represents the most antiquated, primitive neo-liberal economic development policy which the region's governments rally against. And it is economically questionable. Both Brazil and Argentina have gas fields large enough to cover their own domestic demands. It is not clear that Venezuela has the capacity to maintain such a large steady supply of gas, nor that the gas could be offered at a competitive price given the huge investment required. Further, the project's six month schedule for preparation is highly unrealistic given that much smaller pipelines in Brazil have taken a decade to prepare and have been halted in court for years.

The similar existing Camisea gas pipeline through rainforests in Peru - which was touted as a model of sustainable development, environmental protection and respect for indigenous peoples - offers a cautionary tale of the damage caused by gas pipelines during construction and their operation. In three years of operation is has already experienced five major spills, severely damaging the environment and local communities. Indigenous communities have been devastated by disease, and water resources that they depend upon for drinking and fishing have been fouled.

The proposed pipeline is a major threat to the existence of the Amazon rainforest, as well as regional and global ecological sustainability. It would devastate the region's rainforests, water and climate; and the leaders of Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina must be called upon to scrap plans for its construction.

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Despite the usual assurances, the construction and operation of the Camisea gas pipeline through Peru's rainforests has been a disaster  (link)

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