In the far western areas of Brazil, which include the western part of the famous Mato Grosso jungle, engineers -- helped by two civilian construction companies -- are carving a 1,.800-mule (2880 km) highway that will link these isolated lands to the principal population centres of Brazil.
In the far western areas of Brazil, which include the western part of the famous Mato Grosso jungle, engineers -- helped by two civilian construction companies -- are carving a 1,.800-mule (2880 km) highway that will link these isolated lands to the principal population centres of Brazil. The target of the engineers is to reach the peruvian border by the end of the year.
Several highways and feeder roads are under construction in the undeveloped regions of western Brazil. They all stem from the 400 million dollar (160 million sterling) National Integration programme which plans to integrate the Great Amazon Basin into the rest of Brazil. The two main highways are the Atlantic-Pacific road ling, which starts at the capital brasilia, far to the south, and the east-west highway which will eventually be linked up with it.
The work at Cachimbo is part of highway BR-80 which stretches 260 miles (416 kms) south to Xavantina, a small frontier town. The men are working 300 miles (500 kilometres) inside the Mato Grosso. the detachments living along the road have to live under oppressive conditions: the heat, and the impact of tropical rains add to the many problems of breaking through dense tropical forest.
At the moment the road is an "all-weather" highway, a dirt "pioneer" road, which needs to be consolidated. Permanent concrete bridges have to be built for the innumerable river crossings, many of which are at present negotiated by wooden bridges or ferries. The men at Cachimbo are lucky in many respects. There is a small airstrip through which supplies and materials are brought by light aircraft: and there is the pioneer farm of Suia Missu.
Suia Missu is a ranch of over a million acres in size. Thirty thousands acres of dense forest had to be chopped down to make room for 20,000 head of cattle. The ranch expects to make a profit in five years time when 10,000 head will be slaughtered annually.
Sebastiao Camargo, a white-haired 52-year-old engineer and rancher who drives a bulldozer on the road, says the whole of the Amazon cente-west area -- over three million square miles (eight million square kilometres) -- can be developed into one of the main meat producing regions of the world.
The ranches have proved that the area is suitable for cattle, mainly from Zebu stock, with their unsightly humps and folds of flesh. They eat the tough and wiry grass, stand out in the midday sun, withstand the heavy rainy season and walk several hundred miles. The ranchers skilfully round them up, riding mules.
A former Brazilian President, Washington Luis, said in the 1920's: "to govern is to build roads". The present government of Brazil has taken his maxim to heart in a bid to bring the interior into the social and economic life of the nation. For the many indigenous Indian tribes of the area, it means the end of the centuries-old way of life.
Some tribes have had little or no contact with white men, some have regretted the advance of western civilization and some have suffered because of it. Specialists in Indian affairs now travel with the construction teams in an attempt to try and ensure that they are unharmed by the advancement of the road into their territory.