Camisea disaster

31 March 2006

On the first Saturday of March, a liquid gas pipeline ruptured into the jungle town of Echarati, a lush corner of the Cusco region and home to one of the world's most bio diverse rain forests.

The Camisea pipeline has been heralded as one of Peru's most important extractives projects and hopes to use it to provide gas to Lima and to bordering countries. But the Defensoria del Pueblo (People's Defence Office - a well respected government office in Peru) released a report days before the incident, highly critical of the project and of its impacts on indigenous communities that live in the reserve through which the pipe is laid.

The explosion engulfed surrounding farms, set roofs ablaze and left one nearby resident with second-degree burns and another suffering from gas inhalation.
It was the fifth leak in the Camisea liquid gas duct since operations began in August 2004 and came hot on the heels of numerous warnings about poor pipe construction.

The pipeline, which was built with Inter-American Development Bank funding, and is owned by a coalition of international firms called TGP, is causing growing anger among communities living along the pipeline route.

San Diego-based environmental consultancy E-Tech International last week handed a report to the IADB to warn that the pipeline was likely to leak at six points because of rusty, badly welded pipes. TGP rejected the findings of the report.

According to E-Tech, at least half of the Camisea tubing used in the pipeline construction was left over from other projects and was severely corroded. The pipeline last leaked in November 2005, spilling 6,000 barrels of fuel into the jungle. The government has warned TGP it could cancel its operating contract if future leaks occur. Yet Peru hopes to export Camisea gas to Mexico from 2010. After monitoring the Camisea project for five years, from 2000-05, the People's Defence Office reported that the gas project, which was touted as a model of sustainable development, instead poses a serious threat to local indigenous communities.

The report holds both the foreign companies and the Peruvian state responsible for the damages.

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