Pagina Siete’s editorial on a soon to be irreversible damage to our National Parks!
Exploration in protected areas
It is more than an intention. At the opening of the Oil and Gas Congress III, Vice President García Linera said clearly that by “respecting mother earth” the Government will not stop to the protected areas declaration, in areas with hydrocarbon exploration potential. And he added: “We respect mother earth, but we are not going to live as 300 years ago,” that is why the Government is going to use this wealth, taking care to comply with the standards of mitigation of environmental damage.
The same act and statement was endorsed by the President of YPFB, Carlos Villegas, who said that to accelerate the procedures, would devote to reduce deadlines for obtaining the environmental permit and expedite the consultation to indigenous Peoples, as well as viable exploration where there are communities.
The announcement has caused obvious concern to indigenous Peoples. The President of the indigenous territory and Isiboro Secure Park (TIPNIS), Fernando Vargas, he said that this was an infringement of the Constitution, and activist Pablo Rojas said that following the decision of the Government to explore in the parks in search of hydrocarbon reserves, confirms that the real intent of building a road through the heart of the territory indigenous of the Isiboro Secure National Park was entering the ecological reserves. [and please do not forget the free-ride to illegal coca growers…]
In fact, should be remembered, again, that the search for gas and oil in national parks is contrary to the position that eight years had President Evo Morales, who fought uncompromisingly against several oil companies seeking to operate in protected areas, indigenous territories, parks and forests of Northwest Bolivia. [now the truth is revealed…]
But there is more. The decision not only represents a legal contradiction, but it touches the heart of the philosophy of good living, that this process [this gov’s “political” posture] has been as a cross-cutting principle of all its actions. And here come the natural questions: environmental damage is either done or avoid it, now it does not exist, in practical terms for any environmentalist, mitigation, repair and compensation, – that it is not anything other than payment or compensation in cash for damage that is priceless. [… to my knowledge most of the environmental compensation paid in the hydrocarbon and mining industries was spent very little in environmental mitigation, most of those funds were to pay for the operating expenses of the indigenous groups and for infrastructure, name buildings for their organizations, vehicles, salaries and so forth. Most of the so-called indigenous organizations and some NGOs have used pressure to get hold of funding that served only for their survival, very little went to real mitigation and protection.]
Some days ago, the intellectual and environmentalist Uruguayan Eduardo Gudynas, on his visit to the country, also put into evidence the development vision of the Bolivian State and the contradiction that expressed, in his statement, the framework law of mother earth and Integral Development. The Uruguayan says: “the rights of mother earth (of nature), are incompatible by nature, with a vision of ‘development’, which is basically extractive; living well, on the other hand, defends the inviolability of nature”. [this government does not really know what to do and certainly has no sound policies, just reacts by pressure; looks after electoral votes for their perpetuation in power.]
That is a part of the debate, the defense of the environment. As you can see, on this issue the Government says one thing (to defend the Pachamama) and makes another attempt to exploit oil in national parks. But the issue has another edge, which is related to the development model that the country that has followed in the last centuries: extractivism. Bolivia has relied on selling raw materials from its very beginning as a political state entity, almost 500 years ago. And that model has led us to today’s extreme poverty situation. Bolivia was the country most poor of South America 180 years ago, with the birth of the new republics, and remains so today, although various economic and political models have been tried.
Therefore if the country would not only support extractive development models, we may have perhaps have some hope, firstly, to give up the idea of exploring and consequently not to exploit valuable natural reserves which are a treasure of the country. And, secondly, we could try to take steps to a launch campaign of industrialization with added value, as well as encourage activities such as community-based tourism, which is also another proposal of this Government. Perhaps in another stage of our history.
So, we are immersed in the worst case scenario: a blind-sided government whose main concern is to perpetuate in power and once the damage is done, which in the Bolivian case, has proven to be mostly irreversible.