Environmental and Natural Heritage Emergency in Bolivia

How to start narrating what happened, especially if it is still happening? the present is still gray and cloudy as Chiquitanía forest, Roboré forest, Madidi Park and San Matías, as the burned forests of Bolivian Amazon …

When America was “discovered”, the Spanish colonizers heard the legend of Paitití or El Dorado, amazed by the abundant wealth of gold, silver and precious stones that they extracted from the mountains, they sent expeditions trough the forests and the jungle in search of the greatest treasure of which the natives spoke, guided by Pedro de Ursúa and Lope de Aguirre went into the jungle in search of The Great El Dorado without finding a single piece of gold.

More than 500 years have passed since then and today El Dorado burns in flames, the flora and fauna of unique species on the planet, entire jungle ecosystems and forests of indigenous lands that lived together for hundreds of generations in harmony with nature are seen exterminated by fire, and not accidentally or by climate change; the burning of forests in Bolivia is authorized by national laws that protect great economic and political interests of President Evo Morales and his political party MAS.

The Bolivian government, without conducting an environmental impact assessment or prior consultation as established by the Bolivian Constitution, distributed land to new owners, outside the indigenous territories, seeking electoral support for the national elections of October this year, in exchange for hectares of land for the cultivation of coca leaf, the cultivation of transgenic soybeans and the raising of cattle favoring large livestock entrepreneurs.

How can you grow coca leaf, transgenic soybeans and raise cattle in the dense territory of the dry forests and in the jungle of the Bolivian Amazon? From 2013 to 2019 the government has enacted laws that extend the agricultural frontier within forests and jungles, recently Supreme Decree No. 3973 enacted on July 10, 2019 was the trigger that authorizes “chaqueos” or controlled burning of forest, have become the fuel and finally the match that have caused this unprecedented ecocide in Bolivia.

The inhabitants of the dry forests of Bolivian Amazon were surprised by the fire, less than a month after the promulgation of D.S. 3973, it was the city of Santa Cruz (closest to Chiquitanía) that alerted to the increasing forest fires, but the government ignored it, it was from that moment that the fire spreads north of Bolivia: 1 million, 2 million, more than 4.1 million hectares of forest are devoured by fire meanwhile I am writing, territorial extension that is equal to: 41,293.90 km2 equivalent to all Belgium (30,688 km2) and Switzerland (41,277 km2). However, fire has not only affected human inhabitants, but it has become a holocaust for the flora and fauna, being at the moment more than 200 million animals that have died burned, it is their ashes that are in the air, the ones we breathe now in my city Cochabamba, a fact that makes us deeply question our humanity. Despite the devastation suffered by part of the richest reserve on the planet, the government still refuses to make the National Emergency Declaration and repeal the rules that have caused and continue to cause this environmental disaster.

But this is only the beginning, according to data from the Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade IBCE, by 2020 the government’s goal is to sell more than 40 thousand tons of meat to China, which means exporting in just half a year what was done in 10 years. This extractive policy is unsustainable, contrary to Human Rights, which violates the Rights of Indigenous Peoples established in the Bolivian Constitution.

Among the most affected indigenous peoples is the community of Ñembe Guasu, home of the Ayoreo people whose territory was a conservation area, now both humans and animals (jaguars, anteaters, toucans among those who managed to flee) are homeless and without food, unprotected before the same national constitution that claims to protect them. It is important to note that consultation with indigenous communities is essential at the time of intervening their territory, as established by the Bolivian Constitution in Article 352 that states: “The exploitation of natural resources in a given territory will be subject to a process of consultation with the affected population, convened by the State, which will be free, prior and informed. Citizen participation in the environmental management process is guaranteed and the conservation of ecosystems will be promoted, in accordance with the Constitution and the law. In the native indigenous peoples and nations, the consultation will take place respecting their own rules and procedures”. Was this prior consultation conducted? Absolutely not.

Currently the more than 2243 sources of forest fires are less than 15 km away, from the Noel Kempf Mercado National Park, a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO. Our world natural heritage, the lungs of the planet are in danger in front a State that only makes good international press for international organizations capturing economic resources that do not reach their destination, and without proposing an effective response, the which would be to repeal the laws that are still in force allowing new fires to occur over and over again.

Because of this situation, the Bolivian population, university students around the country, as well as several groups of volunteers in Bolivia, among them the volunteers group named: Fight for the Bolivian Amazon of which I am a member, we support the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia CIDOB who are now marching towards the city of La Paz, seeking that the Bolivian government issue the Declaration of Emergency and National Disaster and abrogates the Supreme Decree 3973 and the Laws that are causing this disaster to stop what at this time has become an ecocide like never before happened in this part of the world.

Fight for the Bolivian Amazon is a group of volunteers from all ages and gender, we work together with other groups and organizations, carrying out protest marches, mobilizations, to collect food, medicines, water… for the most affected communities and for the rescued animals, also visualizing the problem and needs they have.

We need our authorities to understand that we are not going to eat, drink, breathe metal or money, the present and the future, our great El Dorado for humanity is nature, the lungs of the earth, it is the biodiversity wealth, is life itself.


The EYF and CCIVS support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors. The EYF and CCIVS cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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