In line with the push for environmentally friendly Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects and Bolivia's former President Evo Morales' "2025 Patriotic Agenda" to transform Bolivia into a regional energy hub, China has supported six hydropower energy projects in the country. The success of these projects vary, and are more dependent on domestic factors in Bolivia than the actions of China.
The Bolivian government has exercised minimal influence on the implementation of the six hydroelectric projects due to domestic political turmoil and an overarching agreement requesting China's investment in energy projects. Instead, opposition and discussions regarding the dams have manifested at the local level. There are mobilized grassroots opposition movements reported at four of the hydroelectric projects in reaction to the negative impact on indigenous communities and the environment.
This article examines evidence of six BRI hydroelectric power projects in Bolivia. Satellite imagery shows that two hydroelectric power plants (HPP), San Jose I and II, have been completed. However, for the other four hydroelectric power projects, construction has not or has barely begun. Our analysis indicates these indefinite delays are partially due to local movements protesting the negative impact of the projects on the environment and indigenous communities, as well as the larger context of political turmoil in Bolivia and COVID-19.