Where Have all the Trees Gone in Sao Paulo?

Photo of a tree cut down on the banks of Tiete river in Sao Paulo

Photo: luddista.

The environmental community in Sao Paulo is protesting over a project to improve traffic that is taking over thousands of trees at the banks of the Tiete river. Protesters say that the work is only going to improve speed by little while spending too much money, and that the new ways will be obsolete when another traffic project called Rodoanel is completed. They also worry about the families that live in the area and the damages that will be caused to the fertile soil.

Dersa, the company responsible for the works, states that the environmental compensation will cover the trees taken down and that the project is complementary with the other.

On one hand, Sao Paulo's traffic is critical, and surely needs some organizing. On the other, is making room for more traffic the solution? Cities like Curitiba and Bogota have certainly proved that it's not.

What do you think? Keep reading and share your thoughts.

The Project: Core Numbers

The project on the banks of Tiete river will expand the current routes to three more lines of cars on each side for over 23 kilometers in order to reduce the traffic jams on the area.

According to O Globo, the state government says this represents about 25% of the total traffic jams in Sao Paulo and that it could save up to 1.5 million liters of petrol a year.

In order for the new lines to be opened, the state needs to clear the trees on the banks of the Tiete river. That's about 1500 ancient trees and 116,000 seedlings that were planted over the past years.

Compensation will be the planting of 83 thousand trees in a linear park.

Following an investment of around 658 million USD, the project is now underway.

Scheme of the works that will take place on the banks of Tiete river

Image: UOL.

Environmental and urban concerns

Opponents to the project say this is a massacre of trees, are worried about the damages that will be caused to the soil, and the dangers that can cause. For example, they claim that the works that will make the soil less permeable will open new danger for floodings (even though the company in charge of the execution says some areas of the soil will be permeabilized again for vegetation).

They are also worried about the fait of the 500 to 1000 families that live in the area, and claim that this work will be useless when the Rodoanel, another project to improve transit in the city, is finished.

But more importantly, they are claiming something that seems to be the key: making room for more cars will only call for more cars on the streets, as Vitor Leal Pinheiro notes on his blog.

We've seen the opposite happen in Curitiba, Brazil, and Bogota, Colombia, where encouraging public transit has given a great relief to the traffic system.

It seems like a logical thing, but there's always lobbying companies and wrong urban planning to make things more complicated than they seem.

So far there's little that can be done as the works are already taking place, but we'll have this post as reference to see if works like this can solve Sao Paulo's traffic issues We hear from a tipster in Sao Paulo that the Architect Union of Sao Paulo along with a group of organizations have filed a complaint asking that the works are stopped.

One of the allegations is that the Environmental Impact Study was done very quickly and by the Environment Agency of the city (being a project by the city itself, the study should have been done by a third party). We're not sure if that will be enough to stop the project, but happy that it's getting some discussion on higher levels.

The issue, anyway, remains the same. The focus, and not just the project, is what's wrong. What do you think?

A cut down tree on the Tiete river banks in Sao Paulo Photo

A blank space and a big question mark remain on the banks of Teite river. Photo: Ecourbana.

More info on the project (all in Portuguese):
Sao Paulo City official website
Ecologia Urbana explains the project
Nosso Quintal on why this will not fix transit

Related Content on Treehugger.com