Indigenous protestors embark on 300-mile walk to protest Amazon road in Bolivia
Indigenous protesters are targeting a new road in the Bolivian Amazon, reports the BBC. The 190-mile highway under construction in the Bolivian Amazon will pass through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Tipnis), a 4,600-square mile (11,900 square kilometers) preserve which boasts exceptional levels of rainforest biodiversity, including endangered blue macaws and fresh-water dolphins. Indigenous peoples who live in Tipnis are participating in a month-long protest march against the road, which they claim violates their right to self-governance.
"This march will end in La Paz, so that the government understands and thinks about changing its attitude and changing the route of the highway project," protester Fernando Varges told Al Jazeera News. More than 500 activists from a coalition of indigenous groups began a protest march in the Amazon city of Trinidad last week. The protestors plan to walk 310 miles (498 kilometers) to La Paz, a trip through the lowlands to the Andean highlands that may take a month. Bolivia's 2009 constitution gives Tipnis and other indigenous communities the right to self-governance within their territories.
The proposed road would connect the Amazonian city of San Ignacio de Moxos with the highland city of Cochabamba. According to href=http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/noticias/2011/08/110816_estrada_bolivia_video_dg.shtml> BBC Brasil, more than 900 petitions have protested the road since it was first proposed in 1990.
The Washington Post reports road construction could lead to the destruction of 2,300 square miles (5,950 square kilometers) of rainforest by 2031. Protesters say the road will speed illegal settlement of native lands by farmers from the highlands and fear that coca growers (coca leaf is used to make cocaine) could bring violence to their territory. The Tipnis area is home to 15,000 Chiman, Yurucare, and Moxos peoples who hunt, fish, and farm within the rainforest.
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