Otuquis is one of the most beautiful Pantanal site; an interesting article from El Deber:
Text: Paura Rodriguez Leyton
Photos: Enrique Canedo
Students and teachers help protect the Otuquis Park
Bolivians have the privilege to ensure that the part of the Pantanal that is located in the country is the best preserved of all this wetland, it is the largest in the world and that we share with the territories of Brazil and Paraguay.
The Bolivian Pantanal, located in Santa Cruz provinces: Angel Sandoval, Germán Busch and Cordillera still retains its natural wealth, especially in the area bounded by the National Park and Natural Area of Integrated Management Otuquis Pantanal.
However, maintaining these vast plains outside the permanent threats is not easy. The illegal settlements, the indiscriminate logging, fires and hunting and fishing of animals are continuous negative actions.
The Director of the protected area, Guadalupe Montenegro, says that although the attitude of many inhabitants of the area has changed in recent years and now look at the wetland as a place to be protected, what worries is the planning of mega-projects in the region, because if these do not take into account the care of the area, will affect this important nature reserve. Refers to the exploitation of iron in the Mutún, the construction of a railway and a port terminal in Puerto Busch.
Her criteria matches with conservation organisations, who recommended that at the time when planning major regional projects are taken into account, measures to mitigate negative impacts on the environment should take place [in other words, to internalize the externalities]. The representative of WWF in the region, Víctor Hugo Magallanes, points out that in order to carry out the projects necessary, prior consultations and planning with a holistic view of development and in accordance with the legal framework should be undertaken.
The Otuquis park guards’ work is key. Ronny Colombo is responsible for the protection and supervises 15 guards distributed in the area. It has began in 2002 and to date, observes that there has been a significant shift in the vision that people have about the place. There are now fewer people attempting to introduce weapons for hunting and the work of information in schools has given good results.
The Rangers are local people who know the area. Rider Roca is one of them; He is originally from the Yacuses community. Two women in the group, Nancy Barba and Carmen Baney were included in the last few months. The Director of the area, Guadalupe, ensures that the female presence gives guarantees, as ‘female guards’ are responsible for and care for details.
SEEDS OF THE FUTURE
Children are the most fertile ground for sowing the spirit of conservation. So is understood by WWF, that carries out the children’s forest project in four urban educational units and one rural. Through this project, pupils and teachers create spaces in which they interact directly with nature and apply the learning of curricular materials in practical events in the gardens planted by the children, in the urban case, and in a natural space of the school itself, in the rural case.
This last experience shown in the school of the community of San Juan de el Mutún, where 20 students from different grades leave typical classrooms to pass classes in the orchard of fruit trees where runs a stream that is behind the school.
Víctor Hugo Magallanes explains that attachment and affection of children toward nature is stronger in the country side. In urban areas it is a little harder to get to them, since their own way of life that they have less care of nature. Just one example: there are plastic bags in the school’s brunch, which are then thrown out in the school premisses, while the children of San Juan de el Mutún have as a snack a ‘majao’ [typical meal in the Bolivian tropics] and do not contaminate their space in their school breakfast.
But there are external elements and that they have to do with mega-projects: against this, in front of the school, stands out as an element that destroys the landscape, a promontory of used tires, abandoned by the Jindal company in the place.
This project is supported by the Mayor of Puerto Quijarro, as well as the construction of the center of interpretation of the Pantanal in the barrio El Carmen in this population. This Center will provide information on the characteristics of the Pantanal and will be available to all students and visitors who wish to know in detail. On the other hand, the authorities of the region expressed their will to maintain the preservation of the area. So agreed the mayors of Puerto Quijaro, Ibar Antelo, and Puerto Suarez, Roberto Vaca. Both pointed out that the education of the population is the most important and the need to plan comprehensive development actions.
This criterion took one step further. In October, the Mayor Roberto Vaca came to Bahia Negra, the Paraguayan border town with the Bolivian Pantanal, to speak with the municipal authorities in this area and agreed that during the first months of 2013 will again meet in Puerto Suarez to determine joint actions for the conservation of the area.
To internalize the externalities is a proven tool in environmental economics. There is nothing wrong with exploiting El Mutun, however that mega project as others should make sure not to affect the Bolivian beautiful Pantanal. Kudos to those youngsters and teachers in their defense of our Otuquis Park!!!