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Desaguadero oil spill - Transredes S. A., Bolivia


On the 30th of January 2000, one of the pipes in the Valle Hermoso oil pipeline from Sica Sica to Arica broke in two. 29,780 barrels of crude oil poured into the Desaguadero River, polluting a fragile ecosystem of the central Bolivian plateau. The oil was carried by the river for 171 km (106 miles), polluting the coasts of 127 communities. The huge spill caused environmental, economic and social impacts. Local communities, especially those of Chuquia, Huancaroma and Japo, alongside organisations and civil associations, protested and demanded damages from Transredes S.A, the company accused of being responsible for the incident. The company was compelled to pay US$6.5 millions but the sum was considered much too low compared to the damages caused. Claims upheavals occurred during the 11th anniversary of the incident, in 2011, asking for an increase of environmental monitoring and health care. Indeed, the population health is not being looked after, albeit it is known the pollution from the oil spill affects humans’ health on the long-term.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Desaguadero oil spill - Transredes S. A., Bolivia
State or province:Oruro
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Project area:17,100
Level of Investment:22000000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2000
Company names or state enterprises:YPFB Transredes S.A. from Bolivia
Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Ashmore International Energy (AEI) from United States of America
Relevant government actors:YPFB - Bolivia
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)
International Monetary Fund (FMI)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:FOBOMADE, PIEB, Centro de Ecología y Pueblos Andinos (CEPA)

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Infectious diseases
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights


Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:The restoration of the area and a compensation for the affected people.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The fine that the company Transredes had to pay is ridiculous compared with the damages caused in the area.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Environment Law 1333

Project of the Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada Government Reformas del Sector Hidrocarburos y Asistencia Tecnica para la capitalizacion

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Monopolios petroleros en Bolivia. Gomez Taia. 2004

FMI, Banco Mundial y Estado neocolonial - poder supranacional en Bolivia. Fernandez Roberto. 2004

Privatizacin de la industria petrolera en Bolivia. Trayectoria y efectos tributarios. Carlos Villegas Quiroga. 2004

Renacionalizacin: Travesa hacia la era boliviana de los hidrocarburos. Gonzlez Roberto. 2005

Privatizacion de la industria petrolera en Bolivia. Quiroga Carlos. 2002.

Efectos ambientales y socioeconmicos por el derrame de petroleo en el rio Desaguadero. Montoya, Juan Carlos. Entrelneas. 2002

Nacionalizacin de los hidrocarburos en Bolivia. La lucha de un pueblo por sus recursos narturales. M.Gandarillas, M.Tahbub y G. Rodrguez. 2008

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

A 11 años del derrame de petróleo en el río Desaguadero, CEPA, 30/01/2011

Other documents

Desaguadero River, Bolivia Pollution from the oil spill still visible in the river and its banks,

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update13/11/2015



Desaguadero River, Bolivia

Pollution from the oil spill still visible in the river and its banks,