Bolivian Ombuds Warns Extraction Threatens Protected Regions


"We cannot mortgage non-renewable natural resources and leave the following generation without any access to them," said Bolivia's ombudsperson.

?Ombudsman Rolando Villena warned Tuesday that 20 out of Bolivia's 22 protected regions are in danger due to oil, mining and hydrocarbon exploitation.

"There are 20 parks in danger – not eight like some said" said the state official during the climate summit taking place in Cochabamba, where the Bolivian government committed itself to protect the environment. The two protected areas of the country not affected are the Eduardo Abaroa park and the Sajama park.

Villena added that exploiting non-renewable energy sources, like oil and gas, has generated intense projects, regardless of "the costs, the challenges or the opinions."

"Mother Earth is handing the bill to this government as well as to the others; we cannot mortgage non-renewable natural resources and leave the following generation without any access to them," he said.

Villena pointed to the lack of access to information in local communities, but also in the general population, especially about the requirements of previous consultations before the implementation of such projects.

Access to information should be demanded "so the people could decide," he said, claiming that previous consultations were not systematically implemented and ended up giving more power to the central government.

He also criticized three executive orders, issued under Evo Morales' administration, which he claims have limited the right of previous consultations on Indigenous territories.

At the end August, the state official requested a formal review of the constitutionality of three executive orders issued under Evo Morales.

Shortly after his election in 2006, Morales launched a process resulting in a new constitution, allocating major rights for indigenous communities, especially on environmental and land issues.

Article 30 of the constitution, for instance, gave Indigenous communities the right "to be consulted via appropriate means, and especially via its institutions," while the Article 403 gave them the possibility of "applying their own rules via their representative bodies, as well as defining their development."

Meanwhile, the Guarani communities of Takovo opposed a hydrocarbon project run by the state-run oil company, demanding consultation, however Morales said that the protest leaders were not concerned about environmental damages, but were seeking financial compensation and preventing the country's economic growth, while "using anything as a pretext to extort the state," he said.

The executive orders allowed for the exploration of natural resources in Indigenous territories without requiring previous consultation and implemented a time limit for consultations of 45 days, allowing the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to move forward with projects after the deadline if the Indigenous communities do not respond in time.