The Peruvian Amazon, Pt. 2: New highway brings concerns for locals
While the new highway being constructed between Brazil and Peru’s Pacific coast is bringing prosperity and job opportunities to impoverished locals, many are emphasizing the detrimental social, environmental, and economic effects.
Previously tranquil isolated towns like Quincemil in Peru are now seeing burgeoning activity – along with violence and other consequences.
Prostitution and violence
“The price of everything has gone up. It’s because there are lots of new men living nearby and working on the road. I am very worried. With all these unknown people that have arrived, there has been violence, men who are drunk, prostitution,” said Rocio Ramirez, the owner of a small store in the town of Quincemil.
“… I don’t like what is happening here. We’ve seen a lot of young girls who’ve gotten pregnant, and we hear that there are a lot of sexual diseases being passed around,” she says.
Given that the town is isolated and the people impoverished, there is no way that health clinics (if any exist) would provide locals with reproductive or sexual education. Hence, the prostitutes are becoming pregnant and infected with STIs. This does not deserve to be taken lightly.
Of course, many of the women who turn to that way of life do it out of desperation and a lack of better options. In this case, their situation points to these women’s inability to access condoms or other barrier methods. And the main victims here are the women and their future children, not the men who seek them out or the corporations making money off the construction and consequent destruction of the Amazon and its natives.
Biologist Pedro Sentero says that Peruvians from the highlands have moved to more fertile lowlands to cut down trees and make room for farming. Some people opt for illegal gold mining instead. He said the new highway could make these migrations and the resulting environmental destruction rocket.
Although sustainable harvesting of Brazil nuts allows for an income without sacrificing the rainforest, some growers eschew it because it doesn’t provide them with enough money.
Amazon Conservation Association President Adrian Forsyth says this rainforest hosts 1,005 species of birds, 13 types of monkeys, and 120 species of bats.
“If we destroy the biological heritage of the Andes and the Amazon basin, we are impoverishing Peruvians, Brazilians and, indeed, the entire world,” says Bruce Babbitt, chairman of the World Wildlife Fund in the U.S.