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BOLIVIA
Petroleum exploration puts national parks at risk
Latinamerica Press
7/23/2015
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Laws allow exploration for hydrocarbon resources in protected areas and indigenous territories

On July 22 President Evo Morales announced during the inaugural ceremony of the Fifth YPFB International Congress of Gas & Petroleum, held in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, his government has decided to explore for hydrocarbons in protected areas.

“We have decided — and I want to clarify that, evidently, we have the right, it is our right — to explore in the so-called protected areas; we will do this with great strength,” said Morales in his speech.

The decision is based upon the Supreme Decree 2366 of May 20, “whose objective is to establish the means to take advantage of the hydrocarbon resources in all the national territory, within the constitutional, strategic and public interest framework for the country development; related to the reduction of extreme poverty in the communities residing in the protected areas and the comprehensive management of life systems.”

The rule authorizes the “development of hydrocarbon activities of exploration in the different zones and categories of protected areas” in compliance with the environmental conditions established by the National Service of Protected Areas (SERNAP) and the National Environmental Authority (ECNA)... that should provide adequate environmental measures, with a focus on extreme ecologically sensitive areas, for precautionary conservation of the life systems of the mother earth.”

Also it establishes that companies that work in these activities should dedicate 1% of the investment amount established for strengthening the protected areas affected.

Morales stated that only 0.04% of seven protected areas will be impacted by the hydrocarbon activities. He added that he is counting on the support of the Assembly of the Guaraní People (APG) and the Council of Guaraní Captains of Chuquisaca that agreed in mid-July to guarantee the gas and petroleum exploration in their territories located in the south of the country, on the border with Paraguay.

Decree 2366 is added to others previously approved and will affect the rights of indigenous peoples. Decree 2195 approved Nov. 28, 2014, establishes compensation up to 1.5% of the total investment in extractive activities in indigenous territories.  Decree 2298 of Mar. 18, 2015, modifies the consultation and participation of indigenous peoples in hydrocarbon activities.

Rejection by the Guaraní people
Domingo Julián, president of the APG, denied that his people have accepted these extractive activities in their territories. According to newspaper reports, Julián said that the only thing that exists is an agreement with the government to start technical work groups in August to establish compatibility between a series of decrees related to the extractive activity that will affect them.

“In no moment have we said that exploration should move forward in the reserves,” said Julián to Red Erbol. “We cannot allow this because in some parks there are species going extinct and we should ask ourselves what is going to happen to these animals, and also I believe these are the only parks with more forest reserves.”

The ombudsman Rolando Villena announced the presentation of a constitutional complaint against of Decree 2366 affecting the rights of the indigenous peoples.

On July 1, Villena filed a constitutional complaint against Decree 2195 because it affects at least four articles of the Constitution that establish that “the people has the right of participation in environmental management, of being previously consulted and informed about decisions that can affect the quality of the environment.”

Furthermore, the Constitution establishes that the indigenous peoples have “the faculty of applying their own laws, administrated by their structures of representation, and the definition of their development according to their cultural criteria and principles of harmonic coexistence with nature.”

“We have analyzed the decree from the perspective of national laws and international principles of human rights and we consider that it presents grave damages to these rights and for this we have requested the appropriate Court to declare these articles unconstitutional,” said Villena.

Bolivia has 22 national parks and 60 different types of protected areas. —
Latinamerica Press


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President Evo Morales during the inauguration of the Fifth YPFB International Congress of Gas & Petroleum. (Photo: www.ypfbgasypetroleo.com)
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