Bolivia’s vast forests are in relatively good condition. Sixty percent of the land that makes up the five ecosystems that converge in the east of the country is protected. The jaguars, tapirs and blue-throated macaws that dwell here are all severely endangered. The greatest threat is posed by infrastructure plans, the expansion of agricultural land, and the mining industry.
The Gran Chaco in the southeast of the country – an arid subtropical region of low forests and savannahs – and the Amazon rainforest located to the north are connected by the Chiquitano dry forests. The area is home to flourishing pink trees, like the tajibo. The dry parts of the Pantanal in the northeast, the world’s largest wetlands, are flooded during heavy rains and remain so for months. A strip of cloud forest extends across the eastern foothills of the Andes.
While some infrastructure plans (including the construction of roads) were abandoned after mass protests, others are still in the pipeline, such as an international plan to broaden and deepen the Paraná and Paraguay rivers to accommodate large cargo ships. This hidrovía (canal system) would connect Bolivia to the sea. NGOs are advocating solutions that would be less damaging to the ecosystem.
The Bolivian government creates laws that promote deforestation and – openly or covertly – allocates agricultural land in forested areas for the cultivation of soy and fashionable export crops such as quinoa and chia. Deforestation is also a result of the highly polluting mining industry (involving minerals such as tin, gold and bauxite), which is condoned by the government, including in protected areas. NGOs, while making every effort to limit the damage, are only permitted to work on development goals set by the government.
IUCN NL has been working with partner organisations since 2002, mainly in eastern Bolivia, on issues such as protecting important water sources, connecting protected natural areas, and the certification of sustainable crops. This adds value to the forest and makes local communities climate-proof.