(by Aldem Bourscheit, WWF-BRASIL)

One of the main arguments of those that defend the construction of a paved road through the Iguaçu National Park in the State of Paraná is that it would give a boost to the regional economy. However, a study published in 2010 shows that construction of the so-called “Settlers Road” would not play an important role in the economies of the municipalities in the region which are based on the production of soybeans, maize, cassava and wheat and small farms.

In a study carried out for the Basque Centre for Climate Change1 Ramon Arigoni Ortiz highlights: “the results show that the construction of the road is not justified from an economic standpoint. Except for Foz do Iguaçu, the economies of the 14 towns located in the park’s zone of influence, as well as other towns in the State of Paraná, depend more on transfers from the federal and state governments and ecological value added tax revenue than revenue generated within the municipality”.

This study was based on official statistics and economic data and information from interviews with leaders of the pro-road movement (Associação de Integração Comunitária Pró-Estrada do Colono, AIPOPEC), politicians, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, members of civil society organizations, local businessmen and residents of neighboring towns including Serranópolis, São Miguel, Matelândia, Foz do Iguaçu and Céu Azul.

The pro-road movement claimed that the closure of the road in 2003 by a federal court injunction would lead to significant economic losses and negative economic growth in the region. They also allege that the protected area is an obstacle to regional development and that the road closure hinders families visiting their relatives on the other side of the park.

Ortiz claims: “these people share the same mentality as the settlers that occupied the region in the past and cleared the forest to make way for agriculture. This cultural trait is at the root of this problem. (...) This vision may be stimulated by political and electoral interests, aggravating popular dissatisfaction”.

According to the sociologist Maria de Lourdes Urban Kleinke, retired member of the institute that participated in the elaboration of a technical report on the closure of the road produced for the State of Paraná Attorney General’s Office, in discussions with members of the local population no evidence was found that the park would hinder families visiting their relatives.

In the booklet “The road is not the way”, launched by civil society organizations to counter the bill that proposes the construction of a road through the Iguaçu National Park, the sociologist recalls: “during the study we did not observe any situation that could prove that the park hinders family relations or affective bonds”. This information may be downloaded by clicking on the link next to this article.

Border effect – apart from the possible deforestation of more than 17,000m² of Atlantic Forest, studies show that the authorization of the construction of the “Settlers Road” by deputies and senators would cause negative impacts on plants and animals extending at least 100m into the forest along each side of the road. This is known as the border effect and could have a negative impact on the conservation of the biodiversity in almost 100,000 acres of the Iguaçu National Park2.

The border effect is a scar in the middle of the conserved forest through which more light, wind and exotic species enter the forest altering the natural dynamics of the forest and threatening the survival of more sensitive native species.

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1) In the author's own words: “WWF-Brasil provided financial support to this study, for which I am grateful. However, WWF-Brasil is not responsible for the results and opinions contained in this study. I am also grateful to two anonymous partners for their constructive criticism, corrections and suggestions”. 

2) "given a minimum range of 100 meters on each side of the road ... there will be a total range of between 200 and 220 meters where the "edge effect" may be significant, probably critical" (Milano et al., 2000). Based on this result, we estimated that between 86,944 and 95,638 acres of forest area would be lost (in terms of its biodiversity) due to the construction of the Settlers Road.

Source: http://www.wwf.org.br/informacoes/english/?37623/The-Settlers-Road-is-economically-unimportant