Schools Training

Higher education hub in Amazon rainforest

7 MAR 2014

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Across the river from the congested metropolis of Manaus, nothing but dense green forest lines the banks of the Negro river in the Brazilian Amazon.

Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas and host city to England’s opening match against Italy in the forthcoming Fifa World Cup, is an urban oasis surrounded by more than 5 million sq km of rainforest, the largest expanse of jungle in the world.

But later this year, the Manaus-Iranduba bridge will lead to a new university city across the river in the middle of the forest.

An ambitious project now under way, supported by R300 million (£77 million) in initial funding, will provide a new central campus for the University of the State of Amazonas (UEA), testimony to seemingly unstoppable growth in the region.

Following its creation in 2001 from the vocationally focused University of Technology of Amazonas, the publicly funded university expanded to 57 of the 62 municipalities across the state, reaching some of the remotest parts of the country.

In less than 15 years, it has outgrown its outdated buildings and now requires greater infrastructure for its burgeoning student population.

The new Cidade Universitária (university city) will offer a base for the biggest multi-campus university in Brazil, uniting the current five sites in Manaus. The project will also involve increasing the university’s satellite campuses from a current tally of nine.

But creating a nucleus in the middle of the rainforest brings with it some unique challenges.

“The biggest question is the environmental impact and, above all, the preservation of biodiversity, which is a characteristic of our university,” Cleinaldo de Almeida Costa, rector of the university, told Times Higher Education.

“It’s very delicate from a planning point of view and logistics are very complicated.”

The new campus, plans for which were announced in July 2012 by state governor Omar Aziz, will be home to the university’s academic departments, as well as residential facilities for 2,000 students, a teaching hospital, a technology centre and facilities that will be used as an Olympic Village in 2016.

The massive 13 million sq m site in the city of Iranduba, across the river from Manaus, is within an environmental protection area on the Negro river.

A 5km access road to the site, including a culvert to divert a stream, has already been completed.

But further construction work must carefully navigate the delicate ecosystem of the surrounding Amazon rainforest. The area is home to 52 species of fish, three species of crocodiles and 80 species of birds.

 

Read full article: Times Higher Education