Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Hard to Implement

The Framework Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development for Living Well, in effect since Oct. 15, 2012, outlines principles for making a shift from classic development models to an integral model “in harmony and balance with nature, recovering and strengthening local and ancestral knowledge and wisdom.”

The law enshrines the legal rights of nature, condemns the treatment of Mother Earth’s environmental functions as merchandise rather than gifts from nature, and requires efforts to prevent and avoid damage to the environment, biodiversity, human health and intangible cultural heritage.

Chapter four of the law establishes an institutional framework on climate change, centred around an office called the “plurinational authority for Mother Earth”. The director of that unit, Benecio Quispe, was appointed on Feb. 18 and is still in the process of naming a team and setting up an office.

The first activity organised by Quispe’s office was the First National Workshop on Climate Change Policies targeting social, academic, public and private organisations and representatives of the different levels of government. The aim was to help conceive of climate change policies with community participation and input.

The framework law could be used to create controls and monitoring systems in regions exposed to deforestation and fires in forested areas, lawmaker David Cortés of the governing Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), who is also a member of the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International), told IPS.

The biggest study so far on environmental legislation, published by Globe International and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, praised the Mother Earth law as a “sweeping overhaul” of the national management of natural resources, climate and ecosystems. But it also said the legislation failed to set out quantifiable targets that would make is possible to assess its implementation.

Application of the law is moving ahead slowly with great difficulty “because the means of production, neoliberal policies” and business community are characterised by the careless exploitation of natural resources, lawyer Víctor Quispe (no relation to the director of the Mother Earth authority), who is also an adviser to the lower house of Congress, told IPS.

Environmental awareness has grown since the law was passed, said Cortés, who cited, for example, efforts by the authorities to generate water saving habits among the population.

Two million of Bolivia’s 10.5 million people still lack clean drinking water and just under four million have no sanitation, Environment Minister José Zamora said last year.

But while the framework law requires new legislation to enable its application and enforcement, other initiatives are seeking solutions to concrete problems.

Source:  Franz Chávez | IPS News