Down the road or up the river: switching infrastructure in the shadow of agroextractivism in the floodable savannas of the Llanos de Moxos, Beni, Bolivia

Authors: Claudia Baudoin Farah*, Instituto de Investigaciones Socio Económicas Universidad Católica Boliviana
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: natural resources, Amazon, human-environment interactions, conflict
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 49
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The intensification of natural resources extraction in Latin America has required considerable investments in infrastructure to access, extract and transport resources, people, and energy. One important expression of this tendency has been the construction, expansion and pavement of roads throughout the Amazon basin. Because of their multiple social and environmental impacts, linked mostly to the opening of new deforestation and settlement fronts, these projects have sparked conflicts across the region. A high-profile example is the conflict between the Bolivian government and indigenous communities of the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) around a highway project that would bisect the territory. In 2011, the repression of indigenous marchers protesting the highway was one of the most politically costly moments of Morales’ fourteen years in office. Nonetheless, it was still pushed forward with various degrees of intensity until Morales resigned in November 2019. A year later, president Luis Arce announced his will to push forward the Ichilo – Mamoré waterway, implicitly proposing it as an alternative to the road and a “fix” to the conflict. Yet, the environmental impacts of dredging on the course of rivers, biodiversity, water quality, and local livelihoods are potentially severe. Additionally, rivers are medullar in articulating economic, social and cultural life for local communities. This article explores the positioning of the waterway as the new key to development and integration in the context of widespread plans of land use change in the floodable savannas of Moxos and the TIPNIS.

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