The Chamber of Deputies approved this Wednesday (9) an urgent request for consideration of the bill that proposes a new category of conservation unit in Brazil, the park road, and creates the first experience of its kind on the Caminho road do Colono, an 18 km stretch that crosses the Iguaçu National Park, in Paraná.
The urgency was approved by 315 against 138 votes of the deputies. With this, the proposal no longer needs to respect the normal procedure in the House committees and enters the plenary’s urgency regime, with opinions to be presented and voted upon when the text is considered. The project was already included in the agenda this Thursday (10), but was not discussed.
The idea is criticized by experts for reaching an area where jaguars and other endangered species live. The park has existed as a conservation unit since 1939. The alteration would cause the reopening of the PR-495 road, created in the 1950s but closed in 1986 by court order. The area was almost entirely covered by native vegetation.
The opposition criticized the urgent approval and the very idea of the project. “It is tearing in half the last Atlantic forest reserve in the interior of the country. More than that, creating a laughable conservation category called the park road, which will promote deforestation, expand and support the ‘herd’ of environmental dismantling”, said Congresswoman Talíria Petrone (PSOL-RJ).
Author of the proposal, deputy Vermelho (PSD-PR) said that the intention is to build a “sustainable project, uniting humanity with nature”. “We are responsible and we are in the year 2021. If we do not have the competence and capacity to build an ecologically correct road, we can return Brazil to the Indians”, he said.
In the justification of the text, Vermelho mentions that the reopening of the road is an old demand in the region. The total route of 100 km connected the municipalities of Serranópolis to Capanema. Today, this distance along the highways that surround the protected area is 179 km. The idea has the endorsement of President Jair Bolsonaro (no party), as he has already stated in visits to the state.
In 2019, Folha flew over the area in a helicopter, covering the same path as the old road, but found few traces of an open route. The only point where the road’s design can be seen – like a small scar in the middle of dense forest – is at the beginning of the park, on the border with Serranópolis.
In addition to facilitating the flow of the harvest, the deputy says that, with the reopening, there will be a recovery of “the region’s socioeconomic, environmental and tourist relations and history”. He also mentions that there may be an increase in the population’s awareness about the preservation of the place.
In the urgent discussion, deputy Nilto Tatto (PT-SP) stated that the project distorts the concept of parkway, which already exists in other countries as a passageway for observing nature, but not for the transit of vehicles and cargo. He also said that the approval of the proposal sets a precedent that could affect other conservation units in Brazil.
“When they publicize to the whole world that Brazil has built a road inside Iguaçu Park, you can be sure that there will be a negative impact for the country,” he said.
Opinion of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) points out that at least 20 hectares of Atlantic forest should be affected by the reopening and cites other potential damages, such as the death of native species, running over animals and the creation of a smuggling route in the region.
For the Public Ministry of Paraná, the reopening of the road disrespects laws to protect the Atlantic forest and the 1986 court decision, which ordered the stretch to be closed.
In addition to the environmental risk, lawmakers mentioned that the Iguaçu Falls, which are within the park, are at risk of losing the title of natural heritage of humanity granted by Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), as the institution has already shown concern about other attempts to reopen the road.
A group of political leaders, which includes PDT vice president Ciro Gomes, this week sent a letter to UNESCO asking for a current position on the project.
On Tuesday (8), there was a demonstration in the Iguaçu National Park of organizations against the recreation of the stretch.
The National Network for Conservation Units released a note in April, when Bolsonaro visited Foz do Iguaçu to discuss the idea of reopening. In the document, the institution warned of the impact of an abrupt change in conditions in the region, which could lead to the dominance of a few species at the expense of others.
He also highlighted that, with 185 thousand hectares, the Iguaçu Park is the largest area of inland Atlantic forest still existing in Brazil. It is home to 550 species of birds, dozens of reptiles and over 120 mammals and is the only preserved jaguar refuge in the south of the country.