Construction of a Forested Overpass to Begin in November!
BR101 is an interstate toll road that runs the length of Brazil from north to south. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, BR101 traverses an area as strategic for national economic development as it is for biodiversity conservation, between the city of Rio de Janeiro and the petroleum production center of Macaé/Campos. Necessary widening of the highway in this region, the São João River/Golden Lion Tamarin Environmental Protection Area, could become an impassable barrier to wildlife trying to cross to and from the Poçó das Antas Federal Biological Reserve, directly thwarting efforts to save golden lion tamarins from extinction. The future of tamarins depends on being able to cross between the remaining fragments of its fragmented habitat to find unrelated mates.
Federal permits to widen BR101 are contingent on construction of wildlife passages, including the first forested viaduct over any Brazilian federal highway. Following six years of negotiations, construction is scheduled to begin in November 2018. That is the commitment made by Autopista Fluminense/Arteris, the concession holder for widening the stretch of BR101 that runs through the municipalities of Rio Bonito, Silva Jardim, and Casimiro de Abreu in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
In addition to the forested viaduct, other lighter structures will be built to connect the forest canopy in strategic locations on either side of the highway. Sixteen underground passages are already under construction to support the circulation of terrestrial wildlife. In addition, the spans of the bridges over rivers crossing the highway will be adapted to facilitate movement of wildlife.
With these measures it is hoped that BR-101 will be transformed into a model for wildlife protection measures in highway construction in Brazil.
Upon completion of construction, expected to take a year, use of the forested bridge by golden lion tamarins will be monitored by Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado to ensure genetic exchange among groups on both sides of the highway. We hope that the forested overpass will also be used by other animals, especially predators, thus maintaining the ecological balance in the Biological Reserve. AMLD has begun restoration of more than 100 hectares of forest on both sides of the future forested overpass.
This success story demonstrates the important role played by Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment in implementing the environmental permitting process required for infrastructure construction projects, through its administrative agencies ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation) and IBAMA (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources). It also shows that it’s possible to bridge the gap between conservation and economic development goals in Brazil.