National Geographic : 1988 Dec
Almost entirely undisturbed in 1973, Rondonia's rainforest appears rusty red in images made by the Landsat 1 satellite 15 years ago. BR-364 appears as a lone white track. INSTITUTODE PESQUISASESPACIAIS(INPE), SAOJOSEDOS CAMPOS "The Bold Ones March West ward," proclaimeda govern ment slogan promoting the Amazon wilderness to land hungry laborersin the 1970s. Settlers had begun the move to remote Rondonia a decade ear lier, once Highway BR-364 stretchedacrossthe territory, made a state in 1981. A ribbon of red dirt, BR-364funneled migration from the dry, over populated northeastandfrom farms in the south where machines had replaced manpower. In 1984 the Braziliangov ernmentfinishedpaving BR 364, the centerpiece of its 1.5 billion-dollarPolonoroeste regionaldevelopment project. By then immigrants flooding into the state were cutting still more roads into the rainforest and clearinglarge tracts to se cure land-tenure claims. Rondonia's population has doubled duringthe 1980s. The soil in many areas cannot sus tain agriculture,and insteadof providingfoodfor export, as planned, the state imports most staples. Experts estimate that more than 20 percent of the rainforest has been destroyed already.