Government documents show that the head of Brazil’s environmental agency

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Government documents show that the head of Brazil’s environmental agency overrode previous expert recommendations from his own organization, when he approved the construction of a controversial highway through the Amazon rainforest last week.

Last week, Eduardo Bim, president of environmental agency IBAMA, authorized Brazil’s federal government to begin repaving highway BR-319 between the cities of Manaus, in Amazonas state, and Porto Velho, in neighboring Rondonia, a route which cuts through the most pristine area of the country’s Amazon rainforest.

The decision was immediately criticized by environmental groups who say that repaving the route would encourage deforestation.

Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has already reached a new deforestation record this year

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The highway project was originally a key part of a plan by the country’s military dictatorship to develop the wild area and integrate it with the rest of the country. It was officially opened in 1976, but poor maintenance led to its abandonment by 1988. Since then, the road has been only partially usable.

As climate NGO Observatorio do Clima highlighted on Wednesday, the authorization also goes against earlier recommendations from a working group made up of other IBAMA officials, who warned that paving the highway would drive deforestation in the region.

The group also pointed out a link between some well-maintained parts of the road and higher levels of traffic, “occupation” and deforestation in the Amazon.

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