Some of the economic corridors or rapidly developing regions in Africa are at high risk for environmental degradation.
Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing rapid development in terms of infrastructure in some spots. Among the signs of progress are freshly paved roads, perfect railroads, winding subterranean pipelines and port amenities.
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The basic race is to build better agricultural means of production, increase the excavation of minerals and boost economic growth and development. However, if all these plans do succeed, the resultant effect would be one of climatic catastrophe, according to a new study published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.
"In terms of development pressures, these corridors would be the biggest thing to hit Africa -- ever," says William Laurance of the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.
33 planned development corridors which span 53,000 kilometers will be the driving force in the road to this so-called progress. Previously barren regions will be opened up to the interventionist nature of man.
These corridors will inevitably be the largest phenomenon to strike the continent of Africa up until now. The increase in these expansionist designs would however come at a steep price.
The effects on the surrounding environment and concomitant flora and fauna would be devastating. Unique vertebrates, rare species of plants, precious habitats, carbon pools and climate-regulating natural processes would be immensely harmed by these practices.
"We found striking variability in the likely environmental costs and economic benefits of the 33 'development corridors' that we assessed,' Laurance says. "Some of the corridors seem like a good idea, and some appear to be a really bad idea. Several of the corridors could be environmentally disastrous, in our view."
Agricultural advancement would spell the death knell of Nature in the raw. And the greed of vested interests would doom the natural ecosystems of the region to undergo a shrinkage beyond belief. While not all the progress is likely to have bad effects, some of it would have unforeseen consequences which include environmental pollution and resource depletion.
That is why a few of these corridors ought to be stopped dead in their tracks. It would indeed be a bad idea to continue with their development. Those regions which lie near the equator such as the Congo Basin, West Africa and the savannahs ought to be conserved for the sake of biodiversity.
As for the corridors which are going to get built whether someone agrees or disagrees, they too ought to have strictures placed regarding the level of advancement that they reach. Too much modernization is an evil in itself.
The Western model is alright so long as it is tempered with some traditional practices. But rampant materialism and ruthless technological evolution are never a good sign. The changes that are likely to take place will only come about with great difficulty.
The problem is that the population of Africa is increasing. And that means more mouths to feed. Although the progress via these corridors will benefit most Africans via job creation and greater opportunities, the environment will suffer. Therefore the utmost care is needed.
"Africa is now facing a 'decade of decision,'" Laurance says. "The stakes are enormous. Once any particular development corridor is established, Pandora's Box will be opened and there won't be very much that one can do to control the onslaught of hunting, habitat disruption, and legal and illegal mining activities. The only real chance to manage this situation is to stop those corridors that are most likely to cause truly profound environmental damage and to create stringent land-use planning around those corridors that do proceed."