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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
Name of conflict:Interoceánica as a driver of deforestation and land use change in Madre de Dios, Peru
State or province:Madre de Dios
Location of conflict:Tahuamanu - 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 commodities:Meat
Transportation services
Papaya, Cacao
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The 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:2,000,000,000 approx.
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Odebrecht Peru Ingenieria Y Construccion S.A.C. from Brazil - Built large parts of the Peruvian Interoceánica; involved in corruption
Relevant government actors:Peruvian Government; Local governments
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Asociación 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)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:Neighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation 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-economical 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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).

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

11. MAAP (2016): MAAP #28: Nuevo Hotspot de Deforestación a lo largo de la Interoceánica Sur en Madre de Dios. 25.03.2016. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

2. Fraser, B. (2016): A railroad that crosses the Amazon could be an infeasible, expensive dream for Peru. Mongabay News, 04.02.2016. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

1. Road Traffic Technology (2018): Interoceanic Highway. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

4. Uper Amazon Concervancy (2018): Peru’s Interoceanic: the Most Corrupt Highway in the World. July 2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

5. Fellet, J. (2012): Na fronteira Brasil-Peru, índios se mobilizam contra obras binacionais. BBC Brazil, 23.04.2012. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

3. Collyns, D. (2011): Amazon road set to give Brazil and Peru new trade route. BBC Online, 28.01.2011. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

6. Fernández, C. (2015): Partir la Amazonia por la mitad. Portal Ecoavant, 17.08.2015. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

12 Perú 21 (2014): Madre de Dios: Minería ilegal ha destruido más de 40 mil hectáreas de bosques. 11.12.2014. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

13. Pighi-Bel (2016): Tambopata: la reserva natural de Perú que empieza a convertirse en un desierto. BBC Online, 15.10.2016. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

14. van Eerten, J. (2017): The Road That Exposed Peru’s Amazon. Earth Island Journal, 24.02.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

15. Fellet, J. (2012): Funai alerta para risco de genocídio de índios isolados no Acre. BBC Brazil, 19.04.2012. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

18. Upper Amazon Conservancy (2017): Violence Highlights Dangers to Peru’s Isolated Tribes, December 2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

9. MAAP (2018): MAAP #78: Hotspots de Deforestación en la Amazonía Peruana, 2017. 05.02.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

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)
[click to view]

8. Elbein, S. (2015): Aljazeera America, 15.09.2015. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

7. Servindi (2006): Perú: Experto advierte graves impactos de carretera interoceánica en amazonía sur. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

10. MAAP (2017): MAAP #75: El Papa visitará Madre de Dios, región con una crisis de deforestación. 19.12.2017. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

17. Gestión (2018): Posible carretera en frontera con Brasil pondría en riesgo a bosques primarios y pueblos en aislamiento. Gestión Online, 16.01.2018. (Online, accessed 15.08.2018)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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

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

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

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

Meta information
Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update18/08/2019
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