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Last updated: 18 november, 2009 - 18:51 GMT

Amazon Road

Amazon Road map

Three BBC journalists travelled through Brazil along the route of the highly controversial BR-319 - a road that will cut right through the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

You can follow all their stories from the journey - in text, video and audio - on this page.


4 NOVEMBER

Picture Of The Day

BR-319

"As I prepared to leave Manaus after this stunning adventure through the Amazon rainforest, I considered what the BR-319 would look like were we to drive it once more in two years' time.

Communities on the route of the BR-319 are isolated and few in number

My guess is that it will be very different - a smooth ribbon of pristine bitumen. Certainly, I doubt people using it will still have to get out their cars and physically put a bridge back together just to drive across.

The debate over the repaving is really the dilemma facing the planet in microcosm.

Why, exactly, rebuild this road?"

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3 NOVEMBER


Picture Of The Day

Mario Cohn-Haft

"Estimates are that around half of the rainforest could be opened up.

This is obviously of huge concern to those who study the Amazon and the creatures that live within it - people like Mario Cohn-Haft, also of the Amazon Studies institute.

It was he who discovered the first jay ever found in the Amazon, earlier this year. He believes there could be up to 1,700 species of bird so far undescribed."

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2 NOVEMBER

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Alfredo Nascimento


"After spending so long meeting the people whose lives will be changed by the repaved BR-319, it was time to meet the man whose vision it is.

Alfredo Nascimento is his name. He is Brazil's transport minister, a stocky, dark-haired man with a reputation as a hard-hitter in the government.

The minister says a repaved BR-319 will not aid destruction of the rainforest. It was apt that we met him at the offices of a publishing company run by his son, because this project is his baby now."

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1 NOVEMBER

Picture Of The Day

View of the BR-319

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"We drove the literal last few metres of the BR-319 this morning.

We had spent the night in the small town of Careiro, a settlement built around the ferry terminal on the southern side of the Amazon river. The BR-319 simply runs out at the water's edge.

The town's economy relies on its ferry service to Manaus

Careiro is clearly very poor. The main street is strewn with litter and stray dogs.

The only places open are a shop selling beer by the crate and a number of small fried-food kiosks. Outside one, an elderly man sits at a plastic table, watching the same music video over and over again.

"Sexy boy, I want your love," the singer endlessly repeats at him."

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31 OCTOBER

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Dolphin at Igapo Acu

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"At Igapo Acu, the village in which we spent the night, it is not too much of a romanticism to say that the main sound that can be heard is children's laughter.

This is partially because the village is so small that any sound is readily audible. But there is more to it than that, for the children have two special playmates - a pair of river dolphins.

The dolphins respond to the sound of a fish being slapped on the surface

The dolphins, named Beto and Zelia - the latter a reference to a former Brazilian finance minister who was often pregnant while in office - have learned to respond to the sound of someone rhythmically slapping a fish on the surface of the water.

They then come up and make swift grabs at the fish as the children try to jump on their backs. It is a delightful scene."


30 OCTOBER

Picture Of The Day

Baby crocodile in pothole

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"It was perhaps only because the road was so bad - at one point, we found a baby crocodile bathing in one of the huge potholes - that such a scene of natural beauty could continue to exist.

Would it have been improved with the addition of traffic rushing over a newly-concreted bridge?

In its hurry to develop like the rest of the world, it would be a shame if Brazil lost the places like this that make it a country so unlike anywhere else."

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29 OCTOBER

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Abandoned garage by the BR-319

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"We had taken a look around a long-abandoned petrol station that was utterly symbolic of this decline.

Eric stumbles across the ruins of a petrol station by the side of BR-319

The panels that made up the flying canopy had rusted and collapsed to the floor. A storage hut had a 3m (9ft 10in) high termite nest around its door. And the pumps had been smashed in and had their internal piping out, like eviscerated metal corpses.

Perhaps most symbolically, a tree was now growing through the kiosk where customers used to buy petrol - but in fewer and fewer numbers as the poorly-constructed tarmac fell apart.

We have seen dozens of these skeletal buildings so far along the BR-319; serving as a warning, perhaps, to those desperate to exploit the economic potential of a repaved road."

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28 OCTOBER

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Brazilian army in the rainforest

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"In the morning we were awoken by the noise of 15 Mitsubishi 4x4s thundering past, all being driven by soldiers in army fatigues.

But it turned out the battle they were off to fight was the ancient one between man and nature - and, on this occasion, it seemed they were on nature's side."

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27 OCTOBER

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Indian tribe children on the BR-319

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"We were met by the side of the road by the Indian villages of Tucuma, who had travelled out to meet us in their brightly-painted flatbed truck.

Around 30 of them had crammed in the back, many of them children - despite the tropical rainstorm that engulfed us."


26 OCTOBER

Picture Of The Day

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"Renascer is home to about 70 families, drawn to the area when the BR-319 was first opened in the 1970s.

They moved after the construction, anticipating that the road would be their route to wealth.

Instead it disintegrated - much like their hopes."

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25 OCTOBER

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Jeep crossing the ford at Juan Gugeiro's ranch

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"Cattle farmer Juan Gugeiro has firm words for Western governments who criticise Brazil for not doing enough to stop farmers burning trees.

'What are Europe and the US doing to stop emissions?' he asks. 'They destroyed all their forests, and now they want to tell us what to do.'"

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24 OCTOBER

Picture Of The Day

Porto Velho Jeep Club

The Porto Velho Jeep Club will take the team along the road

"Jeep clubs are very popular in Brazil. We saw one as we changed planes in Brasilia; eight or nine men of a certain age, gathered in a crowded coffee lounge, laughing together in identical T-shirts and shorts.

In other countries, this type of person would perhaps go hunting, or on a particularly nasty ramble. Here, they get into 4x4 vehicles - Jeep, or "jipe", being the Portuguese generic term - and challenge themselves to drive through everything this country's wild terrain can throw at them.

They see themselves as the last adventurers."

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BACKGROUND

The almost impassable BR-319 route runs between Porto Velho and Manaus. Built in the 1970s, it was abandoned to decay a decade later - and is now little more than a dirt track for its central, 400km length.

But this is set to change. The Brazilian government is seeking to repave the road fully - keen to develop the region's economy and open up the route to south-west Amazonas state and the Latin American countries beyond.

Road through the Amazon

Opening up roads has previously led to clearance of the Amazon

What we want to do is find out how this will happen, and who will be affected.

The plan for BR-319 is not without opposition. Many environmental groups have raised concerns about the potential destruction the road could cause to the rainforest.

For example, this is an area where a total of just 130 military police are tasked with preventing illegal logging over 420,000 sq km.

How they go about this task - and how rebuilding the road might change their approach - is just one of the stories we will be looking at once we head into the forest.

Ultimately, we are hoping to build a full archive of life along this hugely controversial piece of highway - before it is changed forever.

The Climate Connection

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