Following a violent crackdown on protestors which deeply embarrassed the Bolivian government, president Evo Morales has thrown-out plans to build a road through an indigenous reserve, reports the BBC. Protestors marched 310 miles (498 kilometers) from the Amazon to La Paz to show their opposition to the road, saying that the project would destroy vast areas of biodiverse rainforest and open up their land to illegal settlers.
But the peaceful march turned violent when riot police attacked protestors about halfway to La Paz. Captured on video, which soon went viral, protestors were tear-gassed and beaten with batons. The violence from an administration that has long linked itself to environmentalism, the poor, and indigenous rights (Morales himself is indigenous), led several top government officials to step-down in solidarity with the protesters. It also led Morales himself to ask for ‘forgiveness’ from the Bolivian public for the police response, though he denied giving any order for police to breakup the march.
Following the backlash, Morales initially stated the road would be put on hold, but has now said it will not go through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Tipnis). The announcement comes just as around 1,000 protestors have reached La Paz from their march.
The road would have been funded and built by Brazil, which is eyeing another route from East to West in South America. Critics of the road had charged it would have done little to help Bolivians, but Morales had argued it would bring additional infrastructure and economic development to the country. At one point he stated the road would be built regardless of indigenous concerns.
Indigenous people in the reserve stated they had not been consulted on the road project and feared encroachment by settlers if the road was built. In the Amazon, roads bring deforestation, illegal settlements, poaching, among other impacts.
The struggle may not yet be over as protesters have 15 other demands for the Morales government.
(09/27/2011) After a police crackdown against indigenous activists, Bolivian President Evo Morales has suspended a large highway project through the Amazon rainforest. The police reaction—which included tear gas, rounding up protestors en masse, and allegations of violence—resulted in several officials stepping down in protest of the government’s handling. Some indigenous people marched 310 miles (498 kilometers) from the Amazon to La Paz to show solidarity against the road, saying they had not been consulted and the project would destroy vast areas of biodiverse rainforest.
(08/21/2011) Indigenous protesters are targeting a new road in the Bolivian Amazon, reports the BBC. The 190-mile highway under construction in the Bolivian Amazon will pass through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Tipnis), a 4,600-square mile (11,900 square kilometers) preserve which boasts exceptional levels of rainforest biodiversity, including endangered blue macaws and fresh-water dolphins. Indigenous peoples who live in Tipnis are participating in a month-long protest march against the road, which they claim violates their right to self-governance.
(12/19/2010) A new study in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that the premontane forests of Argentina and Bolivia are susceptible to large-scale shifts due to climate change, losing over half of the ecosystem to warmer temperatures. Apart of the Yungas tropical forests, premontane forests are the lowest in the Andes, covering hills and flatland; these forests harbor significant biodiversity, yet many of those species may become threatened as the world warms.