Human Journey

Bolivian Indigenous Groups Protest Highway Construction

Bolivia map detail from "The World" iPad app


Indigenous groups in Bolivia have begun a march from Trinidad to La Paz, a journey of over 300 miles, to protest a highway now under construction that will bisect a biodiverse rain forest region, reports the BBC. The protestors reside in the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) in the west-central region of Bolivia, and believe the highway will result in deforestation and development. Bolivian President Evo Morales has accused the United States of supporting the protestors. Revisit these National Geographic magazine articles offering background on the issues:

  • Alma Guillermoprieto reports on changes in Bolivia in recent years, most strikingly the rise of Evo Morales, the first Indian president, in Bolivia’s New Order (July 2008). She recounts the rocky history of the country, including rule by the Spanish conquistadores, deadly labor camps, a corrupt military elite, and battles over coca production. Photos of the Altiplano by George Steinmetz, who recounts an unexpected plane ride with Morales.
  • What is the effect of roads in a rain forest? In Last of the Amazon (January 2007) Scott Wallace explores the development of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil. He reports: “Brazil has become one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. The danger signs are inevitable. All of it starts with a road.” Find out how much of the Brazilian rain forest has been cut down and why the original purpose of the roads, logging, is not the most destructive element. With photos by Alex Webb.
  • Adrian

    It would seem as though the developing world has an issue! While already developed countires have all but destroyed vast areas of natural forests and habitats we find ourselves dependant on the last remaining alamos of rainforests which reside in less developed countries. What to do? Perhaps it’s time to think of bigger things than green credits and paying less developed countires to keep their natural habitats? I don’t know, do we have such schemes with this country along with others? Is it effective enough? Is there some way that on an international stage, we as collective nations can pay to have these forests maintained and preserved? I guess more questions than answers I am afraid…..

  • Carwil James (@CarwilJ)

    This struggle in Bolivia is a defining moment for both the sincerity of the Evo Morales government and the future of indigenous right to control what happens in protected indigenous-governed land.

    Also, it’s strange to see the very road under dispute, whose construction began less than three months ago indicated like any other road on the National Geographic map.

  • Mariano

    The Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) has a wealthy, powerful, and ruthless neighbor: the “cocaleros” (coca producers). The cocaleros, who are very well represented, are land thirsty to expand a booming business. Whatever the result of the protest, we are witnessing the disappearance of one of the few rain forest “protected” areas, introducing a new coca region (leafs and by-products).

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