The Bolivian minister of Public Works, Vladimir Sanchez, announced that he has already consulted 32 of the 69 indigenous communities over the construction of a highway that will run through Isiboro-Secure nature reserve, known as Tipnis, where the communities reside. The other 37 communities will get to vote over the construction of the highway at the beginning of September.
The Public Works minister said that after asking the 32 tribes, all 32 rejected the intangibility law in Bolivia, finally saying that they were in agreement to accepting the construction of the road through their Amazonian land. Minister Sanchez said at a press conference that the only community to still completely reject the idea is San Miguelito, who are firmly against the road “entering the heart of the Tipnis”.
The intangibility law is a ruling put in place by Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, to protect the nature reserves and indigenous peoples who live in them. The law was put into place in order to promote co-existence with nature as opposed to destruction.
When the law was passed, the indigenous tribes seemed to be in aggreement with it. “The intangibility is a means to preserve the most fragile ecosystems of our territory and national park, to preserve sacred areas and to ensure the land stays permanently sacred now, tomorrow and forever,” said Fernando Vargas, president of the Subcentral Tipnis, an organisation that represents 64 indigenous communities in the area.
The law was a finalised response to the eighth indigenous protest against the construction of the highway last October. After the law was put into place, the ninth indigenous march against construction arrived outside Bolivia’s executive buildings this past June.
Although Minister Sanchez remembers the protest, he claimed that the indigenous communities and the state have come to a consensus over the matter. Minister Sanchez reassured the people that even if there was not a law, the indigenous communities would have been included and informed in the building process.
The last protest occurred on the 15th August, according to the BBC, where an estimated 500 Amazonian natives marched against the highway’s construction.
The proposed highway is to connect the highland city of Cochabamba and San Ignacio de Moxos in the lowlands. The project also hopes to connect Brazil’s south Amazon with ports in the Pacific coast. The project is being done by a Brazilian company.
Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, remains an advocate of the highway saying that it’s important for national integration and that environmental precautions will be taken.
However, environmentalists and indigenous activist say that the road will mean more illegal logging as well as increased coca production.