Gas Pipeline from Bolivia to Brazil
Bolivia’s tropical dry forest forms part of South America’s precious Gran Chaco landscape. Though this wilderness once spanned three countries, today the only relatively undisturbed expanse is Bolivia’s Kaa-Iya National Park. The park is also the first of its kind in South America to be proposed by an indigenous group: the neighboring Isoseño Guaraní people. Their land, together with Kaa-Iya, is home to many iconic wildlife species, including herds of critically endangered Chacoan guanacos. The region is also a base for Bolivia’s expanding natural gas industry. Several concessions have been set up here to supply natural gas through a pipeline network to urban markets in Brazil. In the face of this industrial development, WCS and the Isoseño Guaraní people are working to ensure the energy companies comply with environmental regulations.
The lands of Bolivia’s Gran Chaco face many pressures, including overgrazing by cattle and goats, and commercial hunting for the international pelt and skin trade. In many areas, land clearing to promote ranching and farming have drastically degraded the ecosystems. Grasslands have been virtually eliminated. In addition to the expanding agricultural frontier, the encroachment of the natural gas industry and the Bolivian government’s construction of major highways into the region all pose tremendous threats to the Chaco’s imperiled wildlife habitats.
- Support sustainable development and conservation in and around Kaa-Iya National Park.
- Work with Gas TransBoliviano, the pipeline owner, to ensure that Kaa-Iya continues to meet the challenges that arise from future hydrocarbon development.
- Train local indigenous people in professional field research skills, working toward a future in which the Isoseño are both land managers and conservationists.
- Design and implement a permanent environmental education program in Kaa-Iya.
- Conduct further wildlife population surveys and ecology research.
What WCS is Doing
WCS and the Capitanía de Alto y Bajo Isoso (CABI), the indigenous organization representing the interests of Isoseño Guaraní people, have worked as partners for more than 15 years. For CABI, establishing Kaa-Iya National Park was primarily a means to secure and manage the area the Isoseños regard as their historic homeland. As they have collaborated with WCS, they have also become environmental stewards of the land.
The partnership between CABI and WCS has helped both institutions deal with challenges arising from the rapid expansion of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon industry. In the late 1990s, the indigenous people and the pipeline sponsors worked out an agreement that provided for the implementation of an environmental management program for the section of pipeline located within Kaa-Iya. Under the agreement, the Bolivia-Brazil Gas Pipeline owner committed more than $4 million to the programs, to be run by a committee composed of three representatives of indigenous organizations, three pipeline sponsors, and WCS. The agreement also provided $1 million toward a private trust fund, which would generate a permanent source of revenue for Kaa-Iya National Park. The Kaa-Iya Foundation, designed by WCS and CABI, is using these funds as seed money to attract additional revenues from donors and private corporations seeking to invest in sustainable land use and wildlife conservation in the park and surrounding area.
From the Newsroom
Four conservationists working on WCS-supported projects in South America’s last wild places have earned Whitley awards for their efforts to find win-win solutions for people and wildlife.