LA PAZ – President Evo Morales pledged that energy companies would aggressively explore for oil and gas within the bounds of seven Bolivian national parks and downplayed the environmental impact of that activity.
“We’ve made a decision. It’s our right to conduct exploration in protected areas, and we’re going to do it aggressively,” Morales said on Tuesday at the inauguration of the 5th International Oil and Gas Congress, organized by Bolivian state energy company YPFB.
The work will be restricted to seven of Bolivia’s 22 natural parks and to just 0.04 percent of the total protected area.
Participants in the conference, which concludes Wednesday in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, applauded Morales’ remarks.
The president also asked for a round of applause for a group of Guarani Indians who approved the exploration activity on their territories in eastern Bolivia.
“It’s a wise, responsible decision. They’re not under the thumb of NGOs or foundations, even less of some people in Europe and the United States” who “manipulate” the environmental issue to block hydrocarbon production in Bolivia, Morales said.
The president has drawn criticism – particularly from environmentalists and indigenous opponents – for a May decree giving energy companies the green light to conduct exploration work in protected areas.
They say it is paradoxical that Morales talks globally about defending Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), yet locally he is expanding oil activity to those seven natural reserves.
YPFB CEO Guillermo Acha said last weekend that the seven natural parks where exploration work will be conducted are Amboro, Pilon Lajas, Carrasco, Madidi, Iñau, Aguarague and Tariquia.