Aguaragüe National Park is affected by environmental injury brought on by hydrocarbon exploration, the actions of which have been carried out for greater than a century. In 2017, a examine carried out by the Bolivian authorities and the European Union recognized 5 high-risk environmental liabilities for the inhabitants, for which there’s nonetheless no official data relating to remedial measures.There are at the least 60 oil wells on this protected pure space, most of which aren’t closed, in keeping with Jorge Campanini, a researcher on the Bolivian Documentation and Information Center (CEDIB).Per data from the Ministry of the Environment and Water, there are seven environmental liabilities and 94 oil wells in seven protected areas in Bolivia. No data was offered on the state of affairs in the remainder of the nation.
Aguaragüe National Park, positioned in southern Bolivia, is affected by hydrocarbon exploitation, which has been carried out on this area for greater than 100 years. The park’s soils and water sources are being contaminated and a few tributaries have already disappeared. The Los Monos stream, for instance, is now only a rustic path. Another stream, the Caigua, beforehand offered water to the realm however now has a a lot weaker stream.
Since 2017, the Bolivian authorities has recognized 5 high-risk environmental liabilities inside this protected space, every regarding wells for oil exploration and exploitation which have been deserted with out being sealed correctly. They even have uncontrolled hydrocarbon emissions. These 5 contaminated websites are actually the topic of complaints made by Indigenous Guaraní residents because the websites have broken and polluted their water sources.
In the close by municipalities of Villamontes, Yacuiba and Caraparí within the Bolivian Chaco, residents know their water comes from the Aguaragüe mountain vary. They additionally know the water is an more and more scarce and contaminated useful resource. The oil exercise, to which this ecosystem of the mountainous and dry Chaco Serrano forests has been subjected, is basically chargeable for this subject. Despite this and the requests to cease the environmentally damaging actions in Gran Chaco province, the federal government has not acted.
One motive for this might be the truth that the gasoline extracted from the Aguaragüe mountain vary is exported to Argentina and Brazil and has been because the Nineteen Sixties and 1999, respectively. Between 2006 and 2021, Bolivia’s whole income from the sale of pure gasoline to Argentina and Brazil was $49.53 billion. Prior to this, oil generated income, however the useful resource is not exploited within the protected space.
The Los Monos area in Aguaragüe National Park, Tarija division, southern Bolivia. Image courtesy of Miguel Surubi.
First got here the oil period
Isabel Borda, a former Guaraní chief, who was chief of the Caigua Guaraní neighborhood in 2018 and 2019, was born three years after Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), Bolivia’s state-owned oil firm, took over operations within the Bolivian Chaco in 1937. According to Borda, life was once very completely different for folks residing within the mountains, with the Caigua tributary supplying water that the neighborhood used for bathing, washing garments, fishing and irrigating crops. Animals corresponding to jaguars have been additionally seen within the forests.
In 2010, annoyed on the lack of water and the contamination ensuing from outdated hydrocarbon spills, the Guaraní People’s Assembly led a big march from Yacuiba to Villamontes to demand environmental remediation. One chief even took a bottle of oil collected from the Caigua stream, which was offered to the federal government as proof of the contamination within the space. Despite promising to behave on the problem, the federal government as an alternative permitted a second period of exploitation, this time for gasoline.
Yenny Noguera and Celia Choque, two Caigua Indigenous leaders, tour the Caigua stream, declaring the oil spills and lamenting the environmental injury to Aguaragüe National Park. Image by Miguel Surubi.
A decade in the past, oil might be collected from the Caigua stream, which sadly continues to be the case. The stream’s water stream has additionally decreased because of the hydrocarbon actions and is now a lot weaker. According to Celia Choque, who lives on the foot of the mountains and raises cattle within the built-in administration pure space, the Caigua stream feeds a dam from which water is distributed for irrigation functions.
During a tour of the Caigua mountains, a press group from El Deber and Mongabay Latam noticed darkish oily water simply 10 minutes right into a drive, the deposits of which date from 1924, when the North American firm Standard Oil had a license to use oil within the area. Now, as gasoline exploitation takes place, Choque is coping with the lack of her livestock, that are dying from consuming contaminated water. No one is held accountable for these losses.
At least 5 Indigenous leaders have been prosecuted for protesting oil actions, and that is stopping different neighborhood members from talking out. In 2015, the state firm YPFB Chaco denounced the Indigenous leaders for making an attempt to dam equipment from getting into areas the place wells have been deliberate to be drilled. In response, the leaders justified their blockade by arguing that the prior session didn’t apply to their territory.
Wells that proceed to pollute
The Los Monos stream, which was positioned 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Caigua, not exists. According to Felipe Moza, former chief of the San Antonio neighborhood, positioned on the foot of the mountains, the urge for food for oil and gasoline has not solely ravaged layers of vegetation within the protected space however has additionally destroyed underground and floor watercourses, with one river even having been crammed in with cement.
It is not any secret that the water that flows from the tops of those mountains is contaminated with oil seepage and that there are gasoline emissions. In truth, a 2017 examine on environmental legal responsibility administration in protected areas and its affect on water sources, printed by the Bolivian authorities and European Union, confirmed this.
As a part of this examine, a listing of 101 air pollution factors was created primarily based on these which might be georeferenced within the report, seven of which have been thought-about liabilities, with 5 of those — all discovered within the Aguaragüe mountain vary and every with their very own specificities — representing a excessive danger.
According to the examine, gasoline leaks have been behind the Sanandita-12 (SAN-12) hydrocarbon environmental legal responsibility, which can have been because of structural injury to the effectively. In the soil subsequent to the Sanandita-13 (SAN-13) effectively and within the sediments of a stream positioned 35 meters (114 ft) away, excessive ranges of whole petroleum hydrocarbons have been current, in addition to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, that are risky natural compounds present in petroleum derivatives. In the Los Monos area, the Los Monos X1 (LMS-X1) and Los Monos 6 (LMS-6) wells have been leaking gasoline, once more because of structural injury, whereas the Los Monos 10 (LMS-10) effectively was leaking liquid hydrocarbons.
Before reaching the LMS-X13D gasoline effectively, there are two indicators for the LMS-6 and LMS-4 wells left from the oil period. Image by Miguel Surubi.
The examine additionally reported that the SAN-12, LMS-X1 and LMS-6 wells have been chargeable for ongoing emissions of gasoline into the environment. The SAN-13 effectively was additionally emitting gasoline, however to a lesser diploma. The most severe emitter, nonetheless, was LMS-10, which represented a extreme environmental impression for water within the space, as hydrocarbon concentrations have been above permissible limits. This legal responsibility was within the Los Monos stream, the place the tributary has dried up utterly.
The examine included 10 protected areas affected by oil exploitation, together with Aguaragüe National Park. According to the examine, the hydrocarbon environmental liabilities “have been inadequately deserted and because of the situations wherein they have been discovered on the time of the stock], they signify an environmental danger.” To this, the examine added, “the analysis and evaluation of the knowledge collected primarily based on the socioenvironmental impression evaluation scale produced by the hydrocarbon environmental liabilities concludes that 5 of the seven environmental liabilities are categorized excessive danger, with the remaining two of a medium danger and low danger, respectively.”
In Aguaragüe National Park, 22 hydrocarbon wells have been inventoried, 5 of that are high-risk. These are the SAN-12, SAN-13, LMS-X1, LMS-6, and LMS-10 environmental liabilities.
The El Deber/Mongabay Latam press group requested details about environmental liabilities in Bolivia from YPFB, the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy and the Vice Ministry of the Environment. The Vice Ministry offered a duplicate of the examine on the administration of environmental liabilities in protected areas and their affect on water sources, which detailed the 2017 investigation, however didn’t reply when requested whether or not there have been any updates to the examine. YPFB didn’t reply to the knowledge request.
As such, there isn’t any documentation or area proof that remedial work has been carried out on these 5 environmental liabilities.
The El Deber/Mongabay Latam press group traveled to the situation of the effectively recognized because the LMS-6 environmental legal responsibility. During the journey, the group noticed staff and equipment, in addition to two cattle carcasses on the facet of a highway, which was as soon as the pure course of the Los Monos stream.
En path to the Los Monos area, inside Aguaragüe National Park, the press group discovered lifeless cows in what was once the Los Monos stream, the place at present no water flows. Image by Miguel Surubi.
Access to this a part of Aguaragüe National Park and to Caigua is restricted because of the lively hydrocarbon fields within the space from which gasoline is at present being extracted. Only the corporate staff that present this service to YPFB have approved entry. Rural farmers and Indigenous communities who elevate their cattle within the space are solely approved to maneuver throughout the built-in administration pure space. Fences encompass Caigua and Los Monos.
In the Los Monos area, the exercise was intense, with autos carrying staff getting into and leaving the location. Every so usually, the sound of a bell might be heard, which introduced the presence of a cow; neighborhood members cling such bells spherical their cattle’s necks to find them as they roam the mountains looking for scarce meals and water.
Prior to the extraction exercise within the space, clear waters would stream in a stream, which is now a paved highway. There have been wild animals and birds and in addition swimming pools that have been residence to varied vibrant lizards.
The scent of oil and the sight of darkish oily water stretch alongside the Caigua stream in Aguaragüe National Park, the place hydrocarbon exploitation exercise continues. Image by Miguel Surubi.
Yenny Noguera, a Guaraní Indigenous chief from Caigua, is of the view that the oil exercise in Aguaragüe National Park has left a legacy of unremedied environmental liabilities, water shortage, unfavourable impacts on Indigenous peoples’ methods of life and criminalization of the neighborhood leaders who demand respect for the pure surroundings and well-being, a trigger the present authorities helps.
Traces of oil
The Aguaragüe National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area was created April 20, 2000, by Law No. 2083. Article 8 of this regulation prohibits “any exercise that threatens the conservation of the realm,” but article 9 grants permission “in distinctive circumstances and when it’s of nationwide curiosity” to hold out “the usage of mining or vitality sources.”
In 2000, the protected space was additionally established as a regulating zone of the water regime and because the solely supply of water for the Chaco in Tarija. However, this designation was not revered, with hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation persevering with till the tributaries that provided water within the space dried up. The financial bonanza that Bolivia has had because of the sale of gasoline and oil has not been seen among the many Indigenous communities. Instead, poverty plagues the Guaraní folks and, in lots of circumstances, communities don’t even have primary requirements.
According to Jorge Campanini, a researcher on the Bolivian Documentation and Information Center (CEDIB), at the least 60 wells remained in Aguaragüe National Park following the primary extractive section, lots of which weren’t closed correctly and nonetheless emit gasoline and seep liquid hydrocarbons. Most of those wells are primarily based in Caigua, Los Monos and Sanandita.
In the examine offered by the Bolivian authorities, Aguaragüe National Park was cited because the protected space most affected by oil exploitation within the nation. The 5 environmental liabilities discovered within the park have been lively sources of contamination and danger, primarily for the communities of Sanandita and La Costa. The examine even advisable the short-term closure of the 5 wells and that rapid motion be taken to include the contamination of the LMS-X1, LMS-6 and SAN-12 wells.
The Aguaragüe mountain vary, which is a protected space, provides water to 3 municipalities in Tarija, a division of Bolivia that borders Argentina. Image by Miguel Surubi.
At the start of December 2022, the president of YPFB, Armin Dorgathen, publicly affirmed within the Bolivian Chaco that YPFB complied with environmental rules and that hydrocarbon tasks have been carried out with respect to the surroundings. However, he didn’t reply to a questionnaire submitted by the El Deber/Mongabay Latam press group in regards to the state of affairs of the environmental liabilities in Aguaragüe National Park.
According to YPFB, the corporate has recognized a sequence of “historic environmental liabilities” and, so far, has carried out remedial works on 21,000 cubic meters (740,000 cubic ft) of soil, managed 1,200 cubic meters (42,000 cubic ft) of contaminated liquids, and cleaned streams. However, the corporate didn’t specify the place these operations befell.
In 2017, beneath Cynthia Silva, who was the deputy minister of the surroundings in the course of the administration of former President Evo Morales and who supported the examine carried out with the European Union, an motion plan was introduced for the remediation of the environmental liabilities of LMS-10. Despite such a plan, no remedial work was initiated, partly because of an absence of economic sources.
According to Campanini, some communities, significantly the Caigua neighborhood, have reported infections, ailments and inaccessibility to wash water. The focus of hydrocarbons within the space is past the permissible restrict. After interventions and remedial work carried out by YPFB, ranges have been lowered in Sanandita, however in areas corresponding to Caigua and Itavicua, the degrees remained excessive because the work didn’t utterly resolve the environmental injury.
Yenny Noguera in entrance of the imposing Aguaragüe mountain vary. She has been combating to defend the protected space for greater than a decade. Image by Miguel Surubi.
Despite being conscious of the excessive danger that these environmental liabilities posed for the communities, the Bolivian authorities continued with exploration and exploitation plans in the identical space of Aguaragüe National Park. Campanini assured that 5 wells drilled within the Caigua area by YPFB Chaco, a YPFB subsidiary, have been in operation. This was additionally the case within the Los Monos area, though on a smaller scale. According to the researcher, the Camatindi and Timboy-X2 wells have been closed.
In Villamontes, Yacuiba and Caraparí, the three municipalities that make up the Gran Chaco province, neighborhood members are conscious that their water provide is disappearing, however the voices of its defenders are small in entrance of a authorities that’s targeted on how far more gasoline it may exploit.
Banner picture: Aerial picture of the Los Monos area, inside Aguaragüe National Park, a protected space that has suffered essentially the most extreme environmental impression from the SAN-12, LMS-X1 and LMS-6 environmental liabilities, in keeping with a examine on the administration of environmental liabilities in protected areas and their affect of water sources. Image by Miguel Surubi.
This investigation was carried out by Mongabay Latam in partnership with El Deber.
This story was reported by Mongabay’s Latam group and first printed right here on our Latam website on June 27, 2023.
Conservation, Crime, Ecosystems, Environment, Environmental Crime, Forests, Gas, Oil, Oil Drilling, Pollution, Water, Water Pollution