A Road of Destruction: the Manta-Belém corredor

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The projected trade route from the Pacific port town Manta in Ecuador to the Atlantic port Belém in Brasil is a serious threat to the rain forest and its humble inhabitants. The main purpose of the corredor is to bring commodities from Asia to Brasil, the “justification” that this poor under-developed area needs improvement (= capitalist, economic development).

The world is already criss-crossed by roads, covered in a thick crust of asphalt, which is “sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits.

But this road is not made of asphalt alone.

Asphalt is composed almost entirely of bitumen but although “bitumen can now be made from non-petroleum based renewable resources such as sugar, molasses and rice, corn and potato starche“, the asphalt that is going to cut through the Andes, from the Western Ecuadorian city of Manta, currently home of a military base for the U.S.’s Plan Colombia terror missions, to the port town of Coca in North-East Ecuador, is not a “sustainable project” – it is a venture by global capital for profit for the few, detrimental to the many.

Even though a large part of the route is already road-connected, some major stretches are yet to be built through national parks, others need serious expansion. And the right outfit for the 2.5 billion $ job has been found in the all-too-well-experienced corporation Odebrecht, masters in matters of destruction (from their own site):

In 2000, Odebrecht finished building the 150-km Interoceanic Highway, which runs through the Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest. Contracted by the Ecuadorian Ministry for Public Works and Communications, the route links the port of San Lorenzo, on the West Coast of the country, to the Brazilian cities of Manaus and Belém, via waterways that flow through Colombia, Peru and Brazil, thereby creating a corridor between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Built in Sucúmbios Province in the northeast of Ecuador, the highway facilitates access to the country’s main oil-producing region.

The new road will leave the small communities along the route economically dry, when large lorries and super-fast buses operated by global corporations will fly right past them and only stop in a few global food outlet chains en route.

The first step of the plan is a mega-port in Manta, which is contracted to “Hutchinson Port Holdings” (from their own site):

HPH has been awarded a concession by the Manta Port Authority to build and operate Terminales Internacionales de Ecuador (TIDE), a new container terminal at the Port of Manta, Ecuador.The new terminal is scheduled to be operational in 2007. TIDE will be equipped with a quay length of 1,250 metres, depths alongside of up to 16 metres and a total area of 63 hectares upon completion of all phases. TIDE is situated in the Port of Manta, Ecuador’s only natural deep-water port with minimal dredging requirements. TIDE is approximately one hour from international shipping routes. The Port of Manta is the closest port to Asia on the West Coast of South America, making it an ideal location to be the first port of call for the global shipping lines.

Arriving in the Amazonian oil town Coca the cargo is then to be shipped down the Napo river, along which there are many indigenous communities, right through pristine rain forest and down to Iquitos in Peru, where the already well established shipping cargo line is hooked up via the free trade zone of Manaus to Belém on the Atlantic coast of Brasil. Iquitos, Manaus and Belém are huge cities in the Amazon – with substantially sized heavy industries, all grown from the massive rubber genocides in the late 18th century and accelerated by other aspects of the automobile industry ever since:

In the wake of the rubber boom, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru became battlegrounds for a war between oil companies. Subsidiaries of Shell and Exxon fought for exploration rights in the Amazon, even to the extent of becoming involved in a border war between Ecuador and Peru in 1941… In Brazil…87 Indian groups were wiped out in the first half of the 20th century from contact with expanding colonial frontiers — especially rubber and mining in the northwest, cattle in the northeast, agriculture in the south and east, and from road building throughout all regions

( The Napo River to the east of Coca)

The history is bad enough in itself, the future even bleaker; the trans-amazonian highway from Manta to Belém is projected to be a combined land- and river-road to rival the Panama Canal as a key global trade route connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific ocean. The mad and massive project includes scooping out a 21st century river-highway (a hidrovía) on the Napo to make it fit for trade and transport logistics: stop its natural meandering and ensure sufficient depth for heavy cargo shipping.

At the moment only 216 miles (350 km) of the 550-mile-long (885 km) Napo river are navigable for boats (from the Amazon river up to its Curaray branch); its upper waters may be ascended only by painful canoe navigation.

Does that sound like, does it look like a place for containers and big ships?

Rivers in the Amazon basin vary a lot in size and course, they can sometimes be many kilometers wide in the wettest periods. The main Amazon river “is the largest river in the world by volume, with six times greater total river flow than the next six largest rivers combined, and the largest drainage basin in the world. Because of its vast dimensions it is sometimes called The River Sea.” In wet periods it can be up to 40km wide, it is 6400-6800 km long and its estuary is around 325 km wide. Water from Colombia, Ecuador, and the two main origins, Peru and Bolivia in the Andes flow through this massive planetary organ.

The capitalist destruction of the rain forest is accelerating faster than ever, a process that in addition to manipulation, exploitation, and genocide includes climate chaos, – this year’s el Niño is currently leaving the Amazon alarmingly dry!

The Manta-Belém highway is like the last nail in the coffin. It will have a massive impact on Eastern Ecuador and for those who live along the connecting roads across the country and across the Andes.

Additionally, there is talk two other corredores to complement the one described here, one of which would involve making the Pastaza river further South into a hidrovía as well.

A Highway of Death by Commerce – it must be stopped! This is a meta-communique to get the idea circulated and hopefully a global campaign going to stop this madness. There are many interesting social change processes, indeed revolutions unfolding in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, as well as many interesting social movements in Argentina and Brasil, but the current socialist era in Latin America still have to make some decisive moves towards the environmentalist cause. This road could be a turning point in that the resistance it can generate might break open the head of the politicians of the left. There is nothing other than the decency and morality of the socialist revolutions in Latin America at stake: if Correa and Lula build this road they will be the responsible authors of another chapter in the destruction of the Amazonian peoples and cultures.

If you want to join the efforts let tortugafilms -at- aktivix -dot- org know or leave a comment here. See also Road Alert and click on the image below to learn more about stopping the road cancer:

 

3 thoughts on “A Road of Destruction: the Manta-Belém corredor

    Dave On Fire said:
    Monday, February 19, 2007 at 11:54 (537)

    I got the impression that many Ecuadoreans – especially those who live in the Oriente – understand and feel strongly about the disastrous implications of “development” projects like this, but are disenfranchised and excluded from the political process. Is that just my naivety and, if not, doesn’t the most practical (and morally viable) defense of the rainforest consist in giving these people a voice?

    (In other words, hello. nice blog).

    colono responded:
    Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 17:52 (786)

    Unfortunately, on the one hand, the indigenous people of Ecuador, in particular those in the Amazon, are some of the “best” politically represented in Latin America, but on the other hand, those who represent them, led by Jose Aviles, do not represent them very well, have no connetions to their “bases”, have for long not lived in and with their native communities, but prefer to be politician (as opposed to activists and community/social workers) and drive around in big vehicles, grabbing all the money, power and education they can for themselves and their closest relatives. In other words, they are building an indigenous elite with little reference to and resonance with the indigenous people who live in desparate conditions and whose misery they capitalise on to become “just like the rest of them on the top of the hill”.

    Moreover, the people in the Oriente often have no choice but to roll with capitalist development and therefore invite logging and oil digging – therefore, even if they were “properly” represented, it would not mean that the Amazon would be protected.

    In Napo (a region in the Amazon/Oriente) where they some years ago decided to *not* let oil corporations enter, but instead focus on eco-tourism (“eco” is probably better translated to “economic” than to “ecological”), have just seen a chinese oil outfit enter – welcomed by Correa, of course, whose socalled socialsm is nothing other than globalk capitalism, just not with the US (and presumably neither the EU and Japan), but with “the others” – the chinese and the “socialist” block in Latin America.

    We are currently in La Paz in Bolivia, and five minutes after arriving we met the miners demonstration – about which we will blog later – but for now suffice it to say that when the talk came upon Evo Morales the tears came running down the miner´s wife´s face: “we supported him – he does not support us…”.

    Although I support, in some sense, anything that could promise change – it is clear that nothing is easy and neither is the Latin American “socialism” as promising as its supporters in Europe claims – and the reporting in the media, business as usual, focuses on the elite, the representatives – the people? the people on the ground? Well, who cares?

    Correa and Econofascism: a mere rant with grains of truth. « colonos said:
    Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 11:46 (532)

    […] Mr. Mauricio Davalos, who in an interview in El Comercio on March 6, 2007 (p. 9) confirmed that the Manta-Manaus corredor is central to the vision of the government of Correa. Likewise, Mr. Davalos states “that they are […]

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