Environmental News from South America:
- In 2018, a Mennonite colony purchased 14,400 hectares (35,500 acres) of land in the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz. Colonists have since built a bridge and developed a network of roads, and are in the process of clearing vast swaths of forest.
- The construction of the bridge appears to have been done without authorization from the government, and without an environmental impact assessment.
- Portions of the property lie within two protected areas: Kaa-Iya del Gran Chaco National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area, and the Bañados de Izozogy el río Parapetí wetland of international importance.
- Members of a local Indigenous community voiced support for the clearing activities, saying that the new roads and bridge will help connect them to medical facilities. However, scientists and conservationists are concerned about the impact of deforestation on water sources, wildlife, and isolated Indigenous groups.
In October 2020, residents of a Mennonite colony began clearing a road through the forest in the Cordillera province of the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz. By November, the road spanned about 5 kilometers (3 miles) and ended at the Parapetí River.
Satellite imagery from Planet Labs Inc and data from the University of Maryland (UMD) visualized on Global Forest Watch show clearing activity halted between November 2020 and May 2021. But in June 2021, road construction commenced on the other side of the river, and by July, a network of roads had been carved across approximately 100 square kilometers (37 square miles) of land.
The network of roads appears to have been constructed in order to establish a vast plantation. Clearing between the roads began slowly in July 2021, but ramped up speed within a couple of months, coinciding with the construction of a bridge across the Parapetí — allegedly done without permits or a mandatory environmental impact assessment.
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