Marina Faleiros, News Editor, PPI Latin America
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL,
April 2, 2012
Last week, for the fourth time, I visited the Três Lagoas city, in Mato Grosso do Sul state, central area of Brazil. Back in June 2008, when I first traveled to the region, located around 700 kilometers from Brazilian main business center, São Paulo city, the place used to be like any small countryside town that depended only on agriculture and cattle. Many streets were unpaved, it was hard to find a good restaurant and, at night, you could barely see someone walking on the streets.
After a 20-year wait, and after the city had eucalyptus plantations planted by the former paper company Champion in the region during the 1980s, the pulp producer Fibria and the paper supplier International Paper started up their mills in November 2009. Since then, Três Lagoas habitant's reality has drastically changed.
The city's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 300% in 2010 and helped to attract other business to the region. Now, Eldorado's 1.5 million bleached eucalyptus kraft (BEK) pulp project in the same area brings new enthusiasm. According to the city's mayor, Márcia Moura, in 2011 more than 1,000 companies - mainly small ones - requested official permission to establish in Três Lagoas.
Progress means new homes, schools
The streets, no matter what time of the day, are crowded. New traffic lights had to be installed to control the increasing car and trucks traffic and the percentage of paved streets jumped from 16% to 60%. On the main avenue you can see a huge line of shops and service stores, as well as an emblematic Japanese restaurant specialized in "temakis", which is currently a hit only in big cities. As Três Lagoas is over 800 kilometers far from the ocean, it is quite impressing to see a business offering fresh salmon until midnight, everyday, in a city where only five years ago this was unimaginable. On the Tuesday night I visited the place, around 50 people where there.
This progress, though, demanded a new social approach from authorities in order to control and try to give some order to this development. New schools and medical centers were built; culture projects were conceived. But there is still a lot to do. "The public speed is not as fast as our growth, so we must work hard to little by little delivery what the population needs," said Moura. One of the main demands is housing, which became very expensive due to the real state speculation in the city. "This year we are delivering 1,200 popular homes to local people," the mayor argued.
Authorities are also running to build a railroad ring around the city to bypass the trains that currently have to pass through the middle of Três Lagoas. Mato Grosso do Sul state has promised a new bridge to connect Três Lagoas to São Paulo state, scheduled for the second half of 2013. Currently, trucks and cars have to use the straight double lane road that passes over Jupiá's dam to cross the river beside the city, taking around 25 minutes in a two-kilometer distance.
"The biggest change I see here is that our population now has ways to stay in the city. Before the mills, any teenager dream was to move out to the capital and get a job there. Now, they can have long term plans staying were they were born," said Mauro Arantes, a pulp course supervisor with Senai Três Lagoas, a technical school in the region.
As the ultimate sign of change, the headline of Três Lagoas local newspaper brought interesting news on March, 13: ‘Três Lagoas to receive commercial flights by June'. With temakis and airplanes, Três Lagoas is waiting to receive at least another two pulp mills within the next decade, already announced by Fibria and Eldorado.
Marina Faleiros is RISI's News Editor for PPI Latin America and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.