From: Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Yale Environment360
Published September 2, 2012 09:16 AM

Highway in Boliva would cut through National Park

Growing conflicts over development in South America have come to a head in Bolivia, where indigenous groups are resisting a highway project that would slice through a national park. How Bolivia resolves this showdown could point the way for other regions seeking to balance economic growth and the environment.

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Carmelo Aguilera steadies the dugout canoe as his 11-year-old son, Juan Gabriel, stands precariously and aims his bow and arrow toward the Secure River below. "Fish flesh makes better bait," says the boy, explaining why the dawn expedition begins with a hunter's weapon rather than a hook and line.

Deep inside Bolivia's Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory, known as TIPNIS, the Aguileras live more than 30 hours by boat from the nearest city, surviving mainly on fish and a few homegrown crops. "The river is our lifeblood," says Aguilera, 62.

Bolivia has been embroiled in conflict for the past year over the planned construction of a 182-mile highway, 32 miles of which would cut through TIPNIS, a vital ecosystem — located at the geographic heart of South

The road would be an important addition to Bolivia's woefully undeveloped highway system. Yet environmental studies predict that the project will cause widespread damage, contaminating the park’s three main rivers, opening large areas of forest to illegal logging and settlement, and altering habitats that are home to 11 endangered species and rare primates. All that would threaten the traditional way of life of the reserve’s three dwindling indigenous cultures — the Tsimanes, Yuracarés and MojeƱo-Trinitarios.

Photo shows a couple of caimans (Caiman yacare): Credit Loic Devaux via Parks Watch.org

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