Road ecology blog: Rodoanel Norte, São Paulo, Brazil

September 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Road ecology blog: Rodoanel Norte, São Paulo, Brazil

A few weeks ago I visited several construction sites along the Rodoanel Mário Covas, which, when completed in 2018, will create a 174 km (108 mi) long beltway around Greater São Paulo, Brazil. It has partially been completed while other parts are still under construction. The radius alone is approximately 23 km (14 mi) from the geographical center of the city, illustrating the enormity of São Paulo. It is the largest city in the Americas (North and South America), the largest city in the southern hemisphere, and the ninth largest city in the world based on its population (over 11 million people in the actual city and 20 million people in the São Paulo metropolitan area).

 

Image below: Construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slum), São Paulo, Brazil. The black walls stabilize the slopes for a tunnel currently under construction.

Construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, BrazilConstruction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, BrazilConstruction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, Brazil

Image below: Construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slum), São Paulo, Brazil.

Construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, BrazilConstruction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, BrazilConstruction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, Brazil

 

Image below: Jamille Consulin and Fernanda Abra at construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slum), São Paulo, Brazil.

Jamille Consulin and Fernanda Abra at construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, BrazilJamille Consulin and Fernanda Abra at construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, BrazilJamille Consulin and Fernanda Abra at construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, Brazil

 

The western section of the Rodoanel Mário Covas beltway (32 km, 2x4 lanes) was opened in 2002. The southern section (61 km) was completed in 2010. The eastern section (41 km) and the northern section (Rodoanel Norte, 42 km) are currently under construction. Rodoanel Norte is the section I visited. The outer belt way is projected to be completed by 2018. It is operated by toll road companies. Already more than 300,000 cars use the beltway every day. The cost for the Rodoanel Norte alone is estimated at US$ 3.8 billion. It includes more than 10 viaducts and 7 long tunnels (most of them 1-2 km long), some of them over or under residential areas, some of them under or over Atlantic forest.

 

Image below: Path cut through Atlantic forest for the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, Brazil.

Path cut through Atlantic forest for the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, BrazilPath cut through Atlantic forest for the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, BrazilPath cut through Atlantic forest for the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, Brazil

It is clear that Rodoanel Norte is a project of enormous proportions. But there are other things to consider too. The northern section is being built through residential areas and the threatened Atlantic forest adjacent to Cantareira State Park. The residential areas include illegally-constructed favelas (slums), often built on instable slopes that can be subject to landslides. This results in a complex situation, especially because the favelas have a complex social and economic structure, including criminal elements. Whole neighborhoods with many people that shouldn’t be there on paper do exist in reality. Currently, 2,500 families are presented a choice: accept about R$10,000 and leave, or accept alternative housing, typically in high-rise apartment buildings

 

Image below: Construction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slum), São Paulo, Brazil.

Favela with illegal houses (slums), Greater São Paulo, BrazilFavela with illegal houses (slums), Greater São Paulo, BrazilConstruction site of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) through former favela (slums), São Paulo, Brazil

Image below: Favela with illegal houses (slum), Greater São Paulo, Brazil.

Favela with illegal houses (slums), Greater São Paulo, BrazilFavela with illegal houses (slums), Greater São Paulo, BrazilFavela with illegal houses (slums), Greater São Paulo, Brazil

Image below: OK sign indicates the property in the favela (slum) has been purchased and can be demolished to make way for the new motorway, Greater São Paulo, Brazil

OK sign indicates the property in the favela (slums) has been purchased and can be demolished to make way for the new motorway, Greater São Paulo, BrazilOK sign indicates the property in the favela (slums) has been purchased and can be demolished to make way for the new motorway, Greater São Paulo, BrazilOK sign indicates the property in the favela (slums) has been purchased and can be demolished to make way for the new motorway, Greater São Paulo, Brazil

I also learned about some interesting biodiversity aspects of the construction of the Rodoanel Norte. The new highway clears another 120 hectares through a portion of the last 12% of intact Atlantic forest; the rest has already disappeared because of human impacts. The biodiversity of the Atlantic forest is enormous. About 20,000 species of plants are known to occur in the ecosystem and in some cases there are over 450 tree species present in just one hectare. About 40 percent of the forest’s vascular plants and up 60 percent of the vertebrates are endemic species (found nowhere else in the world) and many of these species are now threatened or endangered. Many other species of the Atlantic forest have become extinct already.

This threatened ecosystem warrants extreme measures to reduce further impacts, including highway construction impacts. The tunnels are mostly under ridges with Atlantic forest on top, resulting in very wide wildlife overpasses or “landscape bridges”. In addition a number of smaller and larger underpasses connect relatively small fragments of the Atlantic forest south of the highway to the larger protected areas north of the highway. But this is not what I found most surprising. I met with members of some of the teams who go out in front of the construction to remove/relocate animals and rare plants, including epiphytes (e.g. orchids and bromeliad species that grow on tree branches), from the path of the highway.

 

Image below; Robson Teixeira Rollo, José Ridente, Marcel Huijser, Camylla Pereira da Silva, Pedro Fernando do Rego, Servilio Mendes, Cristiano, Fernanda Abra, Reinaldo, and Lucas Borges Barbosa at path of new motorway through the Atlantic forest.

Robson Teixeira Rollo, José Ridente, Marcel Huijser, Camylla Pereira da Silva, Pedro Fernando do Rego, Servilio Mendes, Cristiano, Fernanda Abra, Reinaldo, and Lucas Borges Barbosa at path of new motoRobson Teixeira Rollo, José Ridente, Marcel Huijser, Camylla Pereira da Silva, Pedro Fernando do Rego, Servilio Mendes, Cristiano, Fernanda Abra, Reinaldo, and Lucas Borges Barbosa at path of new motoRobson Teixeira Rollo, José Ridente, Marcel Huijser, Camylla Pereira da Silva, Pedro Fernando do Rego, Servilio Mendes, Cristiano, Fernanda Abra, Reinaldo, and Lucas Borges Barbosa at path of new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, Brazil

Image below: Servilio Mendes catches and removes animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, Brazil. Servilio and his colleague Lucas (see further down) encounter many animals up close during their work and they are excellent wildlife photographers. Check out some of their images on this facebook page!

Servilio Mendes, one of the main people who catch and remove animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, BrazilServilio Mendes, one of the main people who catch and remove animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, BrazilServilio Mendes, one of the main people who catch and remove animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, Brazil

Image below: Lucas Borges Barbosa catches and removes animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, Brazil

Lucas Borges Barbosa one of the people who catch and remove animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, BrazilLucas Borges Barbosa one of the people who catch and remove animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, BrazilLucas Borges Barbosa one of the people who catch and remove animals and plants from the path of the new motorway Rodoanel Norte, Greater São Paulo, Brazil

The plants are stored temporarily in a nursery, and then replanted as part of Atlantic forest restoration efforts when the weather conditions are most suitable for survival. Fast moving animals usually escape on their own as humans and machinery encroach. But the teams catch many reptiles and amphibians. These slow moving species, which make up more than 80% of the animals caught by the teams, are unlikely to successfully relocate or escape the construction on their own. They are released in the surroundings (e.g. a few hundred meters away) or in forest restoration areas. Wounded animals are treated in an animal hospital that is an integral part of the temporary buildings related to the construction. When complications arise the animals are relocated to more specialized animal clinics while dead animals are frozen and sent to universities for research and training purposes. These are extensive and relatively unique efforts but appropriate considering the substantial impacts to a highly threatened ecosystem.

 

Image below: Fernanda Abra, José Ridente and Jamille Consulin at a plant nursery associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, Brazil

Fernanda Abra, José Ridente and Jamille Consulin at a plant nursery associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, BrazilFernanda Abra, José Ridente and Jamille Consulin at a plant nursery associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, BrazilFernanda Abra, José Ridente and Jamille Consulin at a plant nursery associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, Brazil

Image below: Plants, including epiphytes (e.g. ferns, orchids and bromeliad species), in a nursery at a site with construction offices and other buildings associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, Brazil.

Plants, including epiphytes (e.g. ferns, orchids and bromeliad species), in a nursery at a site with construction offices and other buildings associated with the ongoing construction of the northern oPlants, including epiphytes (e.g. ferns, orchids and bromeliad species), in a nursery at a site with construction offices and other buildings associated with the ongoing construction of the northern oPlants, including epiphytes (e.g. ferns, orchids and bromeliad species), in a nursery at a site with construction offices and other buildings associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway (Rodoanel Norte) of São Paulo, Brazil. The plants have been rescued from the path of the Rodoanel Norte by teams who go out in front of the construction to remove/relocate animals and rare plants. The plants are stored temporarily in a nursery, and then replanted as part of Atlantic forest restoration efforts when the weather conditions are most suitable for survival.

Image below: Camylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, shows a frozen cameleon at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, Brazil

Camylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, shows a frozen cameleon at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, BrazilCamylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, shows a frozen cameleon at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, BrazilCamylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, shows a frozen cameleon at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, Brazil. The animals that come into the clinic have been rescue from the path of the Rodoanel Norte by teams who go out in front of the construction to remove/relocate animals and rare plants. Animals that do not need additional care are realeased at safe locations, including forest restoration locations, shortly after. Animals that do require medical attention are treated in this clinic, or, if required, in a better equipped clinic. Dead animals are frozen and made available to universities for research and eduction.

Image below: Camylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, Brazil

Camylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, BrazilCamylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, BrazilCamylla Pereira da Silva, a veterinarian, at a wildlife clinic associated with the ongoing construction of the northern outer beltway of São Paulo, Brazil. The animals that come into the clinic have been rescue from the path of the Rodoanel Norte by teams who go out in front of the construction to remove/relocate animals and rare plants. Animals that do not need additional care are realeased at safe locations, including forest restoration locations, shortly after. Animals that do require medical attention are treated in this clinic, or, if required, in a better equipped clinic. Dead animals are frozen and made available to universities for research and eduction.

 

Click here to view other images of the Rodoanel Norte, São Paulo, Brazil

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