Interoceánica as a driver of deforestation and land use change in Madre de Dios, Peru

The Interoceanic Highway has triggered socio-environmentally destructive land use change along its route, with some of the main issues being gold mining, monocultures and cattle farming, leading to further road construction, migration and social conflict.


The Southern Interoceanic Highway, also called Interoceánica Sur or “IIRSA Sur (Peru-Brasil)”, is a recently completed road connection between the Peruvian coast and Brazil. Inaugurated in 2011 (with a car race), it forms the southern axis of three transatlantic corridors within a development plan of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA). As the only highway connection between Brazil and Peru it was supposed to stimulate trade and tourism, but now rather seems to trigger further road construction, illegal mining and deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon basin, particularly in the formerly isolated Madre de Dios region.

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Basic Data
NameInteroceánica as a driver of deforestation and land use change in Madre de Dios, Peru
ProvinceMadre de Dios
SiteTahuamanu - Tambopata
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesMeat
Transportation services
Papaya, Cacao
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Interoceánica, as part of the transatlantic IIRSA corridor, connects the Peruvian Ports of San Juan de Marcona, Matarani and Ilo with Rio de Janeiro and Santos. IIRSA is a development plan to integrate South American economies through a number of infrastructure and energy projects. In Brazil Interoceánica built on the existing highways BR-364 and BR-317. In Peru it involved the construction, renovation and pavement of several street segments and the building of 22 new bridges. The official cost was 2 billion dollars (instead of initially planned 1.3 billion). The Peruvian part of the Interoceánica was build by Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company that has recently become involved in a corruption scandal as it acquired numerous concessions throughout Latin America by bribing politicians. [1][12]
Level of Investment (in USD)2,000,000,000 approx.
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationunknown
Start Date01/01/2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesOdebrecht Peru Ingenieria Y Construccion S.A.C. from Brazil - Built large parts of the Peruvian Interoceánica; involved in corruption
Relevant government actorsPeruvian Government; Local governments
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAsociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA)

MAAProject (by ACCA)

Consorcio Madre de Dios

ONG Futuro Sostenible

NGO Asociación Huarayo

Upper Amazon Conservancy

Indigenous Federation of the Madre de Dios River (FENAMAD)

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups MobilizingNeighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Media based activism/alternative media
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Noise pollution, Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills, Global warming
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The Interoceánica is not the main issue in itself, but it has triggered a number of socially and environmentally destructive developments that have proliferated along the highway without the political will to prevent such side-effects. The case shows that is has only been discussed and promoted as an economic integration project (which has so far also failed with respect to international trade) and that there is clearly a lack of adequate institutions for a more sustainable and less extractivist development model for the region.
Sources and Materials

Southworth, J., Marsik, M., Qiu, Y., Perz, S., Cumming, G., Stevens, F., et al. (2011): Roads as drivers of change: trajectories across the tri-National Frontier in MAP, the southwestern Amazon. Remote Sensing, 2011/3, 1047 – 66.

Jensen, K., Naik, N., O’Neal, C., Salmón-Mulanovich, G., Riley-Powell, A., Lee, G., Paz-Soldan, V.; et al. (2018). Small scale migration along the interoceanic highway in Madre de Dios, Peru: an exploration of community perceptions and dynamics due to migration. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 18(1).


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18. Upper Amazon Conservancy (2017): Violence Highlights Dangers to Peru’s Isolated Tribes, December 2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
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9. MAAP (2018): MAAP #78: Hotspots de Deforestación en la Amazonía Peruana, 2017. 05.02.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
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16. Ecoportal (2018): La carretera Puerto Esperanza – Iñapari afectaría áreas protegidas y los pueblos indígenas más vulnerables de la Amazonía. Ecoportal, 30.01.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
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Media Links

Global Oneness Project - Photo Essay: "La Carretera: Life and Change Along Peru's Interoceanic Highway"
[click to view]

Video showing the damages by illegal mining in Madre de Dios
[click to view]

Video report by Enlace Nacional on Iñapari-Puerto Esperanza road
[click to view]

Video “"Expedição Interoceânica - O Encontro dos Povos"
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorMax Stoisser
Last update09/11/2018