Block a highway of destruction through the Bolivian Amazon!

Protest banner on a river in the Bolivian rainforest: the slogan “Resistance Means Dignity” stands next to the Bolivian flag. Inhabitants of the TIPNIS national park are protesting a planned road through the rainforest. (© Marco Arnéz)

The inhabitants of the Bolivian Amazon are calling for our help: In 2014, international pressure helped prevent a road through the TIPNIS national park. The government has now revived its road-building plan. Please sign our petition and help block a gateway into the forest for illegal loggers and poachers.

Call to action

To: President Evo Morales, copy to ILO

The Bolivian government must protect the TIPNIS national park and respect the rights of indigenous people.

Read letter

“We all need to protect TIPNIS. This is not just a mission for us as citizens of Bolivia, but one for all people on Earth,” explains Ademar Mole, president of the Mojeños indigenous peoples’ association.

With more than 12,000 square kilometers – an area roughly the size of Jamaica or Northern Ireland – the Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) stretches from the rainforests of the Amazon lowlands over steep, wooded mountain slopes to an altitude of 3,000 meters. It is not only the recognized home of three indigenous peoples, but also a place of rich biodiversity, providing habitat for pumas, jaguars, giant armadillos, tapirs, howler monkeys and harpy eagles.

Seven years ago, the inhabitants of TIPNIS fiercely resisted the first attempt to build a road through the middle of the area. Their protests were backed by Rainforest Rescue and other NGOs.

International pressure proved effective: in 2014, the Bolivian government shelved its plans and passed a law granting TIPNIS “untouchable” status.

In August 2017, however, the government repealed the law and put the road construction plans back on the table. Such a road, as the inhabitants are well aware and a study has documented, would be a gateway for illegal loggers and settlers, gold prospectors and poachers. The influx would quickly destroy the forest and the indigenous peoples’ livelihoods.

Ademar Mole is determined not to let this happen and is preparing legal action, including a complaint for violation of the constitution. If necessary, the indigenous people will once again march on the capital La Paz and defend their land with bows and arrows.

Please support our petition to the government of Bolivia.

Back­ground

Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS), which was established in 1965, is one of 22 national parks in Bolivia. The name reflects the Bolivian authorities' recognition of indigenous land rights in 1990. After a long struggle, the inhabitants were also granted a formal collective land title (Territorio Comunitario de Origen, TCO) in 2009. Between 1990 and 2012, the indigenous people repeatedly marched on the capital La Paz to stand up for the protection of the area and the recognition of their rights by the Bolivian government.

Plans for the construction of a road through TIPNIS came to light in 2011. The road would connect the towns of Villa Tunari, Cochabamba department, and San Ignacio de Moxos, Beni department. The indigenous people vehemently opposed the project and declared their intention to protect the integrity of their territory.

Who would really benefit from the highway?

TIPNIS’s nature, while protected on paper, is increasingly threatened. Concessions have been awarded to oil companies within the protected area. Logging operations are eating away at the periphery of the park.

The planned road through the national park would facilitate the export of soy from growing areas in eastern Bolivia and the bordering states of Brazil. It would provide a direct link from Brazil via Bolivia to Pacific ports in Chile. 60 kilometers of road through the TIPNIS area would still be needed to realize the connection.

The road would therefore primarily serve the business interests of the agricultural, timber, mining and oil industries, not aid the development of indigenous communities as officially claimed.

While the TIPNIS inhabitants are not against development per se, they fear that the road will literally overrun their home. The organizations representing the affected indigenous communities are therefore calling on the government to establish a different route for the road – one that will connect Beni department in the Amazon lowlands and Cochabamba department in the Andes without impacting TIPNIS.

Further information:

Current Biology Review, October 23, 2017: Economic, Socio-Political and Environmental Risks of Road Development in the Tropics

The Guardian, September 11, 2017: 'They lied': Bolivia's untouchable Amazon lands at risk once more

The Guardian, August 15, 2017: Bolivia approves highway through Amazon biodiversity hotspot

In Spanish:

Mongabay, Sept. 28, 2017: Tipnis: indígenas bolivianos temen desaparecer tras decisión del gobierno

Noticias FIDES, September 18, 2017: Indígenas de La Paz y del TIPNIS firman alianza para defender sus territorios de megaobras

Somos Sur: Dossier actualizado de apoyo a las luchas a favor del TIPNIS

and Materiales gráficos para entender una fraudulenta "consulta"

Letter

To: President Evo Morales, copy to ILO

Dear Mr. President,

Time and again you have declared your intentions to protect Bolivia's environment and indigenous peoples.

However, the road construction project through Isiboro Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) would condemn the indigenous population (Yuracares, Mojeñas Trinitarias and Chimanes) to extinction. It would mean the unstoppable destruction of the ecosystem through an invasion of settlers, drug producers, loggers, oil companies and industrial agriculture. The deforestation of the Andean slopes would also have catastrophic consequences for the Amazon lowlands.

With its Law No. 180, the Bolivian government made a pledge to the indigenous people to ensure the untouchable status of TIPNIS. That law has now been abolished and a new law, No. 969, has been adopted, authorizing the exploitation of the area. The government currently has no resources at its disposal to control the illegal settlements associated with road construction. The construction of a road through a previously pristine area therefore inevitably means its destruction.

Don’t let the road between Villa Tunari and San Ignacio de Moxos be built through TIPNIS. Please protect the rainforest and the rights of the TIPNIS inhabitants. Respect Mother Earth and continue to pursue the concept of “Good Life” (Sumak Kawsay) that you have advocated.

Please respect the Bolivian Constitution and the international treaties protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples. We also call on the International Labour Organization (ILO) to work with an expert commission to verify that the consultation procedure carried out in TIPNIS complies with Convention 169 on the Fundamental Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Thank you in advance for your response.

Yours faithfully,

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