sexta-feira, agosto 26, 2005

Is the Road to Santo Amaro do Maranhao the Best Way?

It is a fact that the creation and paving of roads has always been a synonym of progress. Isolated places have been connected to larger commercial centers, lighting arrived, plumbing, big city products, and trucks carrying with them the hope for better days. But every rule has its exception. Every progress has its price. The road also brings impairments that are typical of large cities: garbage accumulation, since the host town is not prepared to deal with this issue, causing illness, audio and visual pollution, the swelling of entire districts and the progressive deterioration of the environment, not to mention so many other problems. Examples we have plenty.

That is the question: to build or not to build a road in the small segment of 20 miles that connects Rosarinho, beside BR 402 (entirely paved, connecting São Luis to Barreirinhas, another entrance to Lençóis Maranhenses) to the municipality of Santo Amaro do Maranhão, an ecological sanctuary of immeasurable richness, also another entrance to Lençóis, even more preserved?
The truth is that the road is already at the door of Santo Amaro. What are 20 km of sand compared with the nearly 100 miles of quagmire and shale that separated the municipality from the paved road? The only “disadvantages” that I see are the little longer time spent to reach Rosarinho and the lack of frequency of the Toyotas that connect the town to the BR. But that can be easily solved. The 40 minutes the inhabitants may gain with the paving of the road are not going to bring a lot of improvement to their lives. If they complain that the access is difficult for it being a road only possible for four wheel drive cars, why not increase the frequency of the Toyotas? I suggest the creation of a large Portal at the entrance to Rosarinho, where the tourists’ cars would be parked, and from where 4X4 cars would be used to reach Santo Amaro.

Anyone wishing to use his own pickup pays a toll. There a convenience shop would be installed, and an environmental education post, where instructors would coach the visitors on the basic cares of preservation. New jobs would be created and “farofeiros” without environmental conscience would be prevented from visiting the site, leaving garbage and not generating any revenue to the town, since they come and go on the same day and bring everything from home, not consuming anything local.

Even if the road were paved, the local population (that makes the biggest claims for the road) would not have money to buy motorized vehicles. Unfortunately this is an actual fact. He who can afford a vehicle generally already has a 4X4. After all, for what and for whom is this road supposed to be?

A place like Santo Amaro do Maranhão, of huge tourist potential, of rare beauty, of places still untouched by man, cannot afford to have this small segment paved without having in the other hand a coherent mechanism of environmental protection that may generate a true progress. Tourism, maybe the best alternative for development of the town (provided it is sustainable) has in the tourist attractions the soul of its business. It is the perpetuation of natural tourist attractions that makes Santo Amaro an unique and differentiated place, capable by its own of generating demand. Who is going to leave São José do Rio Preto, travel miles and miles, change planes, spend a lot of money, to see such fantastic beauty in a state of degradation? Charm is the way. It is the obstacles to be surpassed that please the fantasy of the visitors’ minds.

It is this small segment of difficult access that separates Santo Amaro from this “illusory progress”. That is what makes Santo Amaro the hidden paradise of Lençóis. That is what separates Santo Amaro from a disorderly development, generating land speculation, pollution, destruction. It is therefore the lack of the road that will bring progress to Santo Amaro.

However, the non-road is also not a synonym of preservation and development. A plan of sustainable touristic development is welcome. There should exist an Urban Master Plan, despite the small population of the place. There should exist integration of tourism with other sectors of the local economy, such as agriculture, exploitation of natural resources, fishing, artisan work, so that these activities may keep on existing and pressing the tourism system. It is precisely with the coming of tourism that the demand for these products is increased. This also prevents the peaks and depressions caused by tourism seasonality. An architecture in harmony with the local nature (made of local products) not only does not injure the environment but generates income and jobs, creating a multiplier effect on the local economy. The money from the buriti straw sold by seu Quincas to the inn of seu João, who bought one kilo of farinha from dona Maria, who bought one kilo of fish from seu Rodrigues, who bought one dose of cachaça from seu Docas (one dose, since nobody is made of iron. Let it go to the Saint, preferably Amaro) and so on.

Thus, it is about time to think of not paving this road. Making the population aware of the immense risk, as well as the participation of the NGOs, universities, and letters like this one will help and press the local leaders to take the most coherent decision: that of good common sense.


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