Blog 1: The Hidden Crisis in Bolivia: How tensions over neo-extrativist policies are affecting biodiversity, conservation, and indigenous livelihoods.

The title for my undergraduate faculty research project with Dr. Toomey is: “The Hidden Crisis in Bolivia: How tensions over neo-extractivist policies are affecting biodiversity, conservation, and indigenous livelihoods.”

Dr. Anne Toomey and I will be conducting research centered around a current crisis in Bolivia: the government opening of Madidi National Park and other natural protected areas for oil and gas production as well as development. Various indigenous groups in the lowland regions of Bolivia (including the Tacana, Chimane’, and Moseten peoples) are affected by current plans by Bolivian President Evo Morales to install two hydroelectric dams (El Chepete and El Bala) in Madidi National Park on different points of the Beni River (Molina 2016). The need to develop a better understanding of the ongoing crisis and perspectives of those involved and affected is crucial. There are many international actors (oil and natural gas companies) being granted access to national parks and protected areas by Bolivia’s government, at the detriment of the indigenous groups living within these areas. The lack of public awareness and the restriction of speech implemented by the government has been a persistent problem. National and international NGOs and environmental organizations based in Bolivia are limited in what they can say, under threat from expulsion from the country due to a “NGO law” passed in 2013(Hill 2015).  Due to the lack of global awareness about this crisis, it is necessary to conduct this research in a way that highlights published literature established on the issues and makes information more accessible to a wider public. All perspectives on the issue- indigenous, farmer, and governmental- will be considered.

The purpose of this research is to develop a better understanding of the politics around indigenous rights in Bolivia in the context of the current crisis, as well as the strategies that affected indigenous communities are using to mobilize at regional, national, and international levels. The research questions are:

1)How are indigenous rights and environmental regulations being impacted by increased neo-developmentalism in Bolivia?
2)What strategies are lowland indigenous communities using to engage in discussions about these issues at regional, national, and international levels?

I hope to obtain greater insights to the complexities of the current crisis in Bolivia by working on this project. This is a multifaceted issue, and the key to being able to aid in the crisis affecting  over 3,000 indigenous people from many different communities and one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet is understanding every player and every new development on what is happening.  This is the first undergraduate faulty research project I’ve been a part of, so I’m also expecting to hone my research skills and improve on areas of this that I feel I struggle with. I expect to gain valuable skills conducting research such as being able to organize and develop websites, being able to effectively understand scientific works and incorporate aspects of them into my own research and develop accurate academic writing capabilities.

The methodology for this project would entail writing a literature review of the primary literature regarding the crisis, including peer-reviewed publications and recent news articles in Spanish and English that follow the unfolding events. This approach will highlight the national and foreign policies at play in the situation, the different strategies that indigenous communities are using to demand Prior Informed Consent, and how said communities are mobilizing at regional, national, and global levels.  In order to compartmentalize the flow of information on this topic, part of the methodology will also be the development of a website that is planned to be structured in a way to allow for increase awareness of this issue. This would entail the incorporation of sections for documentaries, peer-reviewed and gray papers, and potentially social media activism. This website will be continuously updated to ensure that the most urgent and recent information is available for the public.

 

Hill, D. (2015). Bolivia opens up national parks to oil and gas firms. The Guardian.

Molina, F. (2016). “Plan de construir dos represas en bosque virgen de Bolivia alarma a ambientalistas e indigenas.”

 

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