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Bolivia to Explore Oil in Seven of 22 Protected Areas

Source: Reuters 7/21/2015, Location: South America

Bolivia will explore for oil in seven of 22 protected reserves, the president said Tuesday, sparking outcry from opposition activists.

President Evo Morales pledged the exploration would not have detrimental environmental impacts, and said the government had held "consultations" before making the decision to search for oil in the protected lands.

"We have every right to conduct explorations... and we will do it with all our strength," he said.

Environmental activists decried the move, and said the explorations could impact vulnerable communities and flora and fauna.

"These measures threaten protected areas and do not respect... the rights of communities and peoples who live in these protected areas," said Marco Gandarillas, the director of the Center for Documentation and Information (Cedib).

State-owned oil company YPFB president Guillermo Acha said local residents had been consulted and compensated.

"Bolivia has two processes of consultation and participation with the regions where it plans to perform these activities," Acha said.

The land earmarked for exploration accounts for 0.04 percent of the seven parks named, which make up 3.9 million hectares of land in total.

Some 17.2 million hectares of Bolivia's total 109 million hectares are considered protected land, which includes flora, fauna and water resources.

Land-locked Bolivia depends almost entirely on abundant natural resources and farming, producing oil and natural gas, zinc, tungsten, tin and other minerals.

The country's oil and natural gas resources were nationalized in 2006.

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