Bolivia’s Battle: A Road or a Way of Life?

In an e360 video report, Noah Friedman-Rudovsky explores how a highway proposed through the heart of the Bolivian national park known as TIPNIS will affect local indigenous communities.

Across the Amazon Basin and throughout much of South America, the continent’s economic powerhouse, Brazil, is the driving force behind a network of more than 500 economic development projects, including major highways and hydroelectric dams. One of those projects, embraced by the Bolivian government, would construct a highway through the heart of Bolivia’s Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous territory, known as TIPNIS.

Many TIPNIS residents are opposed to the highway, fearing it will open the way to uncontrolled logging, mining, and other activities that will despoil the forests and rivers on which their indigenous way of life depends. Environmentalists have criticized the project, with one scientist warning the highway would be “a mortal blow to the entire ecosystem.” But many Bolivians favor the road, saying it is an essential link in a modern, north-south highway sorely needed in this underdeveloped nation.

Videographer Noah Friedman-Rudovsky traveled to TIPNIS to report on this controversy. In this Yale Environment 360 video, he explores the stakes involved and examines whether resolution of this showdown could help other regions strike a balance between economic and environmental interests.