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On the Brink.

In the depths of the Amazon, nearly 1,600 kilometers up the Amazon River, sprawling squatter communities solidly encircle the largest city in the vast rainforest, Manaus. The boomtown of the Amazon's resource-fueled economy, which thrives on logging, cattle ranching, and mining, Manaus serves as a gateway for fortune seekers heading up the river to find their riches.

But the frail shacks in this photo show a starkly different - and more true-to-life - portrait of this resource rush: the city's shanty towns constantly swell to make room for those who have returned from upriver empty handed, or those forced off land by corporate cattle ranchers, or those who have lost their lands to logging or their water to mercury poisoning from mining.

This resource extraction has another effect on the Amazon: eight of the river's twelve highest floods in the past century have occurred in the past 25 years, in part due to the destruction of water-retaining wetlands, forests, and river banks by the hunt for resources and riches. Perched below the high-water mark along this levy, these squatter homes will be moved or washed away with the return of the rainy season. But the doomed shanties are only a slightly more transient version of the kind of development that is going on worldwide: luxury homes are being built atop the shifting dunes of barrier islands, cities are boldly sprawling into floodplains, and giant dams arc being built on earthquake faults.

As Worldwatch researcher Janet Abramovitz reports in this issue, the damage caused by natural disasters continues to surge worldwide. In the future we can expect to see a growing number of people displaced by storms, fires, or floods. That is unless the poor can be provided with the resources, and the rich with the prudence, to move back from the shores, river banks, hillsides - back from the brink of disasters.
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Publication:World Watch
Date:Jul 1, 1999
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Uitnodiging tot verdere gesprekke.

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