Mrs. Maria Beatriz Souviron
Bolivian Embassy
106 Eaton Square,
London, SW1W9AD
Your Excellency:

I am writing to tell you of my great distress that the local council of Villa Tunari in the coca growing Chapare region of Bolivia is going ahead with the construction of an 8 km stretch of road which will pass through a National Heritage site--despite an order from the Bolivian President himself to stop it.

This road will connect the local coca growing communities to the main arterial route linking Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. It stretches 8 km from start to finish and is 4 meters wide, allowing cars and trucks to invade a local park which houses one of Bolivia's largest NGO's., Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi. This organisation is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of abused wild animals, and to environmental education and protection. It has existed on leased public land in Parque Machia for over 15 years. Over this time they have built up an infrastructure that will be systematically demolished with the construction of this road, displacing and endangering several hundreds of wild animals and threatening the future of this project. No consideration has been made for the well- being of the animals. In addition, the park is one of the few tourist destinations in the area, and many hotels, restaurants, transport workers and others benefit from the visitors and volunteers who come to the park.

Alternative routes have been suggested including a bridge over Rio Espíritu Santo that would directly link the affected communities with Villa Tunari and bypass Parque Machía entirely. This alternative route would be 4km longer but would still connect the communities with the main road, without destroying a key habitat for thousands of animals.

The present route crosses a number of landslides in the area; most of the land the Animal Sanctuary exists on is sandstone and mud. With the extensive deforestation taking place, destroying the root systems that provide the area with what little stability there is, the feasibility of this construction looks doomed to failure. But by then the damage will be done.

This is not the first time. In 2008 an attempt was made to build the road through the park, but the plans and work were stopped after appeals were made to the local authorities and press. However, in 2009 the road construction began again, illegally; the required Environmental Impact Assessments had not been carried out. This time the road was stopped by a presidential order from Evo Morales.

This month, August, the building of the road began yet again: over 300 campesinos armed with machetes and axes invaded the park and destroyed a vast area including some 100 year old trees. The animals were terrified and the volunteers were helpless.

All this is why I am writing to you for your help. I would be very grateful if you would contact the Bolivian government about this critical situation, and inform me of their response.

With gratitude for your kind assistance,