Amazonian peoples react to pressure on infrastructure and extractives

7 September 2019

On 6 September, President Martín Vizcarra unveiled a national infrastructure plan of 52 projects worth 29 billion dollars that includes an untested and controversial bid to dredge five major tributaries of the Amazon in Loreto and Ucayali regions. This would open them up to heavy goods transport.

Over 400 communities have objected to the Hidrovia project on various grounds including the unpredictable effects on the fisheries on which populations depend for food supply. Despite cursory environmental impact assessment and consultation for the initiative, Vizcarra insisted that funding was secured for all the projects and they were certain to be implemented. 

The longstanding dispute over repeated, un-remediated oil spills in Lot 192 between Petroperú and the Jivaro groups of the frontier region with Ecuador plumbed new depths in a report by Caretas 29/8/2019 (‘El Conflicto de los S/6 Millones’) with accusations of dishonesty and extortion against the indigenous peoples and the anthropologist advising them.

Dating from the 1970s, Lot 192 is Peru’s oldest major oilfield and depends on Petroperú’s obsolete North Peru Pipeline for transport of its crude. Preceded by Occidental and Pluspetrol, the most recent operator of the concession, Frontier Energy of Canada, has sustained some 60 spills over four years and is the subject of complaint to its own government by the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights. 

Small wonder then that the launch of Lot 200, a new petroleum concession of nearly 500,000 hectares in the Ucayali and Huánuco regions, has been unanimously opposed by the eleven Ashaninka, Shipibo and Awajún communities affected. Perupetro has approved exploration by the Spanish petroleum company CEPSA but can expect delays as the communities have rejected the consultation process and exerted their right to withhold consent.

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