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Photos by Craig C. Downer

These photos, taken in late March of 1995, show devastation of the upper Purshi area of Sangay National Park, south of Quito, Ecuador. Damage here is being caused by construction of the Guamote-Macas road. The towns of Guamote and Macas are on opposite sides of Sangay National Park, and while neither town is inside the park itself, the road connecting them runs through one of the park's most pristine areas, the Purshi Sector, a sanctuary for plants, animals and the underlying earth itself. Devastation caused by construction of the road (seen clearly in thise photos) is only one aspect of the problem. The more serious damage will be done by colonization of the park, enabled by this new road. Colonization and the cattle industry wreak havoc with the delicate balance of nature in the reserve.

While laws are in place prohibiting cattle and agriculture from invading its boundaries, the laws are not enforced. Along with settlers come the poachers, so devastating to the slow-reproducing mountain tapir. Again, while laws prevent harming or killing this animal, the laws are not enforced.

Photo 1, above, shows a bulldozer working on the road. While this is a typical scene for any road constructed through a mountainous area, it has been agreed by a number of civil engineers that the damaged caused by building this particular road is especially irresponsible. The photo also shows the steepness of the terrain and the pristene nature of the land before the heavy equipment came in. The low clouds shown throughout this series are typical of the treeless high paramo of this portion of the Andes. The area has been called a "living sponge," and is vital to the water supply of areas lower down the mountain, including the Amazon Basin itself.

In Photo 2 we see additional carving out of the living sponge.

The Guamote-Macas road will bring settlers and their cattle into the area of Laguna Negra, formerly one of the gems of the Andes.

Photo 4 is again taken from the shores of Laguna Negra with mountains reflected in the lake's now-muddy waters.

In Photos 5 and 6 we see two views of slide areas created by the road. The volcanic soils of the high northern Andes are typically thin, underlain by rock. Once damaged, they do not quickly regenerate their life-sustaining properties.

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