Roads in the Selva Maya

An assortment of road projects has been proposed in the border region of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, which is part of the Maya Forest, the largest contiguous tropical forest in the Americas north of the Amazon. The proposals are apparently aimed at spurring economic growth and reducing the high levels of poverty found in this area. But more and better roads usually bring more people and expand farms. Decision-makers are therefore confronted with a seeming conflict between conservation and development goals. Would new roads be bad or good for the Maya Forest region?

Amarakaeri Indigenous Reserve

Working with Peruvian biologist Carmela Landeo, CSF helped examine the real economic impact of roads and logging on Amazonian indigenous communities. Landeo, who participated in CSF's first training in 1999, studied changes wrought in the forest and in household incomes where industrial timber extraction has drawn indigenous villages toward the cash economy. Landeo studied the communities of Shintuya and Shipeteari, both on the fringes of the Manu National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve.

Interoceanica Sur Road in Peru

Tropical forests of southeastern Peru hold the highest biodiversity levels in the world. This unique region is threatened by the construction of a paved road linking Brazil to Peruvian ports on the Pacific Ocean. CSF carried out a study to identify priority areas for conservation investments to mitigate the so-called "Interoceánica Sur" road's impacts. To do this, we analyzed the road’s effects on land-use profits, information we combined with data on the distribution of wild plant and animal species. The economic and biological data was overlaid to find where the greatest conservation gains can be achieved at least cost. Finally, we considered socio-political factors that might favor or restrict conservation.

Amazon Forest Fires

CSF worked with Brazil 2000 course participant, Ricardo de Assis Mello, a researcher with IPAM (Amazon Environmental Research Institute), to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of alternative agricultural methods aimed at preventing destructive forest fires.

Farmers in the Eastern Amazon see few alternatives to the traditional slash and burn agricultural. As a direct consequence, in the states of Pará and Mato Grosso, the area of forest burned by accidental fires is greater than the amount of land intentionally burned for agriculture. Ricardo worked with IPAM as part of a World Bank Pilot Program for Tropical Forest Protection that aims to develop no-burn agricultural clearing methods.

Payment for Environmental Services in the Atlantic Rainforest

Financial sustainability of protected areas is always a challenge in developing countries. In this project, CSF developed a methodology to implement a Payment for Environmental Services (PES) system focused on water conservation for human consumption in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. This payment system approach is supported by the 47th and 48th articles of the Brazilian National System of Conservation Units Law (which goes by the Portuguese acronym SNUC), which aim to generate income for protected areas management. The project study area was the Guapiaçu and Macacu rivers basin in Três Picos State Park, close to Rio de Janeiro city. This basin provides water for about 1.7 million people.

Our analysis was developed in five phases:

Economic Benefits of Manaus Parks

What is the local economic impact of protected areas creation and management? Protected areas are commonly considered barriers to economic development because they impose limits or even completely block the use of natural resources. However, this study demonstrated that 10 protected areas located up to 200 km from Manaus city in the Brazilian Amazon provide an source of important income for the local economy. In some situations, these incomes can even surpass earnings generated by land uses such as cattle ranching. The study also found that in the case of the Manaus, the economic activity generated by protected areas - mostly in the form of local spending and employment for research and protection activities - was paid for by money originating outside the region and even outside Brazil.

Belo Monte Dam

In this study, we analyzed the costs and benefits of the Belo Monte project on the Xingu River in the Southern Amazon. For our analysis, we created three scenarios. The first examines only the “internal” costs and benefits of Belo Monte as an energy project, excluding the costs of its impacts on competing economic activities and the environment. In the second scenario we included some external costs: tourism losses, impacts on water supply and fisheries and declines in water quality during construction. The third scenario also includes these external costs, and estimated energy benefits based on an alternative model, called HydroSim, developed at the Campinas State University (UNICAMP) in São Paulo.

Economic Benefits of Madidi National Park

There is much debate over whether natural protected areas restrict economic development or enable it. In this study we assessed the local economic benefits provided by Madidi National Park & Natural Area of Integrated Management, one of Bolivia’s largest protected areas, and also one of the most important globally for biodiversity conservation. We applied this analysis approach previously for Amazonian protected areas near Manaus, Brazil.

Economics of a Road Through Madidi National Park

Rural roads are frequently associated with economic development, but they are often implemented without consideration for their economic feasibility also called "efficiency." The terms feasibility and efficiency describe investments whose benefits are, at a minimum, greater than their costs. When such criteria are ignored, road projects are funded by governments with no clear expectations of increasing the overall wealth of the country. In fact, they often bring considerable economic losses when accrued benefits do not offset large costs involved with road improvement or construction.

Roads and protected areas in northern Bolivia Amazon

Road projects in the Amazon Basin are seen by some people as required elements for economic development, but they can come with a host of social and environmental disadvantages. These include the destruction of forests and other natural habitats, the loss of biodiversity, the spread of human diseases, displacement of indigenous and non-indigenous communities and the concentration of landholdings. Studies that consider and integrate the varied effects of road projects can point to those investments that best achieve, and, to the extent possible, reconcile economic, environmental and social goals.

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