transportation infrastructure development affects deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon
Recent studies estimate that nearly two million hectares of primary forest in the Peruvian Amazon have been cleared in the last 20 years. It is a dynamic process that responds to physical, political, social and economic conditions specific to the region, and where the influence relationships between various drivers converge.
When discussing economic development, road infrastructure emerges as a factor at the forefront of deforestation, so understanding their influence is critical to designing interventions that reduce their impact on forest conversion.
An upcoming study led by CIFOR-ICRAF in collaboration with the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE), a research center in Peru, is analyzing frontiers of deforestation and transport infrastructure on land use dynamics to provide recommendations. The study entitled “Analysis of 2000–2020 deforestation boundaries and the influence of transport infrastructure on land use dynamics in three case studies in the Peruvian Amazon” examines roads (formal accessibility infrastructure) and formal and informal forestry or logging roads (informal accessibility infrastructure) in three different contexts: the Iquitos-Nauta road in the Loreto region, the Peru-Brazil binational road project in Pucallpa-Cruzeiro do Sul, Ucayali region, and IIRSA Sur -Las Piedras sector in the Madre de Dios region.
Preliminary results suggest that the dynamics of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon primarily respond to synergies with socio-economic, institutional and political contextual factors, and not only the role of road infrastructure. “The contextual factors, or underlying drivers, that most influence deforestation and road infrastructure are political will, state control and supervision, corruption, and the capacity to implement policies and sanctions,” said Karla Vergara, geographer and researcher of the study.
In the specific case of the IIRSA South – Las Piedras sector, the main direct cause of deforestation is encroachment, which is followed by the expansion of infrastructure such as roads and settlements, as well as agricultural activities related to semi-permanent crops. However, these causes are the result of interactions with other causes, especially indirect causes, which have effects at different scales.
It was asserted that cultural factors, especially corruption, have the most active influence on networks, followed by institutional and political factors such as lack of governance tools, lack of cross-sectoral articulation, and limited public budgets, among others. In addition, it was observed that commercial agricultural activities, such as annual and semi-permanent crops, are not only closely related to increased income, but are also influenced by institutional and political factors that drive their expansion or reduction. In other words, the area devoted to these activities fluctuated due to institutional and political factors, as well as technological developments, especially related to technical assistance.