Japan will not fund construction of the final segment of a controversial highway through the Amazon rain forest in Brazil, according to a senior Republican senator.
Sen. Bob Kasten of Wisconsin said Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Nobuo Matsunaga, “assured me the Japanese are not considering any proposal to fund this highway.”
Many environmentalists oppose the project, known as BR-364, because they fear it will hurt the rain forest. It would link remote regions of the jungle in Peru and Brazil to bustling Pacific ports on the other side of the Andes, permitting raw materials such as lumber from the forest to be easily shipped abroad.
U.S. Pressure Cited
Kasten said he believes that pressure from the United States helped persuade Japan not to fund the road.
“I assured them that we will watch this project very closely because we intend to ensure that basic environmental safeguards are followed if an arrangement between the Brazilians and the Japanese develops,” Kasten added in a statement released Thursday.
Kasten is senior Republican on the Foreign Operations subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. funds to multilateral development banks. He said Japan, as a leading source of development funds, has a responsibility to make sure that projects are environmentally safe.
On Feb. 3, a team of senators pledged to try to block the jungle road after spotting evidence of it while touring the Amazon basin. They said construction equipment was already in place, awaiting the end of the rainy season in April.
The huge Amazon rain forest is regarded as vital to the global environment. Scientists have warned that its destruction could deprive the world of an important source of oxygen and alter its weather patterns. Plants release oxygen during photosynthesis.