Petroperu admits to jungle spill

19 June 2016

On 9 June, Petroperú for the first time admitted responsibility for the oil spills that have affected communities in the Peruvian Amazon. It did so in a public hearing as part of the 158th Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission (IACHR), held in Chile. Government representatives invited the Commission to visit the country, specifically those sites affected by oil spills.

The hearing had been requested by the community of Cuninico, the Organización Regional de Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Norte del Perú (ORPIAN-P), the Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), the Vicariato of Iquitos and the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH).

There were a number of powerful witness statements at the hearing by community members. Flor de María Parana, for instance, who belongs to the Kukama indigenous group from the community of Cuninico, talked of the effects of the oil spill of June 2014 and the government’s failure to remedy the damage caused. She spoke of the effects on the health of families whose main food source is from the contaminated rivers. The communities lack health services to help them remedy such problems.

OEFA, the government agency responsible for overseeing environmental impacts, had previously found Petroperú responsible for the oil spills in Cuninico, blaming it for a lack of due diligence in maintaining and repairing the Northern Peru Pipeline which links the jungle oilfields with the coast.

In March this year, the Ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo) sent a letter to the head of Petroperú criticising it for its poor response to such emergencies. It demanded full accounting of the compensation paid for all of the 21 oil spills that have taken place since 2011. The Ombudsman called on Petroperú to undertake preventive measures as specified by OEFA to be carried out immediately and that it (OEFA) and Osinergin (the two oversight bodies) provide full information on compliance. See: http://www.perusupportgroup.org.uk/news-article-1069.html

A recent article by IDL and the Vicariato de Iquitos welcomed Petroperú’s apology and admission of responsibility. It praised the government’s invitation to the IACHR to visit the sites of the spills. However, it stressed that these gestures needed to be followed up by concrete measures to ensure the future safety of these communities. Such measures include:

  • Guarantees from Petroperú on proper maintenance of the pipeline.

  • Implementation of corrective measures to restore the conditions that existed prior to the spills. There are still reports of oil being found in the water despite cleansing operations.

  • Provision of adequate health services, including epidemiology and toxicology examinations for everyone who has been in contact with polluted water.

  • Supplies of food and water to all affected communities. Cuninico has been the only community so far to receive provisions, and only for the six months following the spills.

  • Compensation for all affected communities and establishment of a community development fund.

Finally, IDL and the Vicariato urged the Peruvian government to set a date for the commssioner’s visit so that they can see first-hand the devastating effects that oil spills have had on the environment and people’s livelihoods. For the full IDL article, see: http://www.justiciaviva.org.pe/blog/historico-petroperu-pide-perdon-derrames-petroleo-gobierno-peruano-invita-la-cidh-ver-zonas-afectadas/

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