Frustrated with the Bolivian government’s approval of a 190-mile highway that will cut through the heart of the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and a wildlife preserve, hundreds of Amazonian Indians have begun a month-long protest march to protect the environment and their right to self-governance.
More than 500 activists from a coalition of indigenous groups began a protest march in the Amazon city of Trinidad last week, reports Mongabay. The protestors plan to walk 310 miles from the lowlands to the Andean highlands of La Paz.
President Evo Morales, claims to support indigenous rights and the protection of “Mother Earth,” but says that the road is essential for national integration and modernization. Earlier this year, Bolivia passed its own la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra, or “Law of Mother Earth,” as part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009.
But the Washington Post reports construction of the road could lead to the destruction of 2,300 square miles (5,950 square kilometers) of rainforest by 2031.
“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.
According to the BBC, “environmental groups and indigenous activists say the road will open the region up to illegal logging, as well as settlement by farmers from the highlands who grow coca leaf – the raw material for illegal cocaine.” The Washington Post also reported that Bolivia’s Environmental Defense League (LIDEMA) believes the highway is simply a pretext for oil exploitation in the rainforest.
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