Below are a few of the interesting comments we received regarding road construction near tropical forests:
Paul Richards, University of Wageningen, Netherlands
(F)or African forests you will need to take more account of the problem of weak states and boundary wildernesses. Several key areas of forest estate cross state boundaries…the Gola forests on the Liberia-Sierra Leone border, the forests of SE Liberia / SW Cote d’Ivoire, and the Oban Hills-Korup complex on the Nigeria-Cameroon border are relevant examples.
Various kinds of clandestine and subversive activity are fostered by LACK OF ACCESS…roads are necessary as an element in a judicious strategy for defence of the realm…I exemplify the issue in my book Fighting for the Rain Forest.
Eric Jackson, Panama News
Panama also faces the problems caused by road building in forest areas. If ever you get to this neck of the woods, let me take you to see a couple of things:
1) The road along Colon province’s Costa Arriba…is an eye-popper. (There’s a plan…to extend it to Kuna Yala, but the Kunas won’t hear of it.) A drive along this route looks like a time-lapse photo of deforestation-where the road began to push past Portobelo nearly 30 years ago, everything’s deforested, overgrazed and eroded. Farther along, where the road went in only 20 or so years back, everything’s deforested but the erosion’s not so severe. Farther along, there are a few trees left in the cow pastures, and a few uncleared patches. Still farther, the trees are just starting to fall.
(Note this road is also now a major drug route. Planes drop bundles into the Caribbean Sea. Men in cayucos fetch them and then the dope goes by road for the next stages of its northbound journey. No environmental impact study of a road project in Panama has ever considered the additional law enforcement needs that the proposed road would create.)
2) The Panama News sponsors the soccer team in Arimae, an Embera and Wounaan village through which the Pan-American Highway was extended about 25 years ago. It totally destroyed their traditional economy, and mostly wiped out their culture. Now they’re trying to pick up the pieces, but they generally don’t like the idea of environmentalists, particularly non-indigenous ones, paternalistically trying to regulate uses of their land…..
Sebastiao Kengen, IBAMA, Brazil
Regarding to the question "Can roads and tropical forest be compatible? I would say yes. …(T)he major question is not the road per se, but the poverty that characterize most tropical areas. I would pose another question: Why do the USA, Cananda, and Europe have roads everywhere and forests are not depleted? On the contrary, figures suggest they are even increasing.
(Deforestation studies)…should be carried out, not under standard patterns (ie. increasing population, etc.) but rather compared the socio economic conditions and their evolution in developing and developed countries. (As) socio economic conditions increase deforestation decreases. You could selected some countries from Latin America and Africa, Europe/USA/Canada and Transition Countries (Russia and so on) and carry out a comparative study among them. It seems to me that is time to carry out different studies on deforestation.
Nadine Kratmos, NASA, Washington DC, USA
(O)ne major impact of new logging roads (specially in Central Africa) is increased poaching (where population density is low and major markets too remote). I am not an expert in conservation but I think that at least one policy recommendation should address this problem. I think maybe some expert from WCS or WWF should perhaps write a short paper on this subject for this newsletter. I think that David Wilkie wrote a paper about this subject for a workshop last year at Yale University (Sangha River workshop).
Juan Antonio Aguirre, CATIE, Costa Rica
In your argument regarding the forest sectors and roads you emphasize the type of command and control measuresthat were popular in Latn America in the 1970s and 1980s. The real problem is in the tax structure that allows people to speculate with the capital gains made possible by roads. If with correct the tax system and make it more efficient, a lot of the problems mentioned could be solved with less intervention, as they have been in much of the developed world. (Editor’s note: The original was sent in Spanish and translated here.)
Lucio Munoz, graduate student, Canada
The article refers to the impact of new roads on forest clearing. It does not look at the impact that old roads have had and are having.
The recommendations would minimize the negative impact of new road building on forest areas in the short and medium term, but not on the long-term, if the issue of how much total area should be protected and exploited is not legally resolved and enforeced and if full-rent is not taxed away. Theory suggests that as rent increases around the market, roads into agricultural frontiers may often have a positive net present value incentive, which drives the traditional process of forest land conversion to other uses. Hence, in the long-term just implementing these reccomendations may not be enough, but following them would slow down the pressures on forest clearing.
Robert R. Hearne, Environmental Economics Programme, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London
A quick addition to your policy recommendations: Do not construct roads in areas that do not have secure land titles or enforced common property management.
Fred Kruger, CSIR, South Africa
I am surprised by the comments on environmental impact assessment. In South Africa, these are subject to close public scrutiny. Our problem is that not all constituencies have enough capacity or know-how to be effective, but it is getting better.
David Wall, European Union Forestry Project, Indonesia
The problem is very real. CIFOR’s reply is comprehensive and I can find little fault with it, in so far as it refers to roads. To some extent the same arguments also apply to river systems within the forest. If previously un-navigable rivers are cleared of obstructions this can lead to the same negative impacts.
A couple of points:
1. (You should not assume)…roads…are the only or most cost-efficient means of transport. Surely there are other means, such as ballooning, that are now competitive in rugged country. Many of the expensive to build and maintain logging roads now penetrating the more remote and steep mountains of concessions could be replaced by balloon-to-yard techniques, permitting at the same time more efficient exploitation of a wider range of species, considerably less damage and no temptation to deforest. The associated policy would be "Management plans to specify timber extraction techniques other than roads in areas of low agricultural potential".
2. The above comment is also relevant to recommendation 1. Instead of ’poor quality soil’ , I would prefer to use the phrase ’areas of low agricultural potential’. It is not necessarily the soil itself that is low quality for the farmer, but the associated site for reasons of slope, drainage, rockiness. There are some fertile soils on rugged sites (young Andosols in volcanic areas, Alfisols in limestone areas) and some extremely infertile soils on otherwise good sites (Oxisols on ultrabasics).
William Adsett, Panama Audubon Society
We in Panama Audubon Society have been trying to say all these things to all kinds of people for years. The question is, how to you get people to even realise that this is an issue, let alone do something about it?