Environmental emergency in Loreto as consultation delayed

22 October 2013

New evidence confirms that indigenous communities’ water and food is being contaminated by oil drilling in the Amazon region. In mid-October indigenous communities in the Tigre river basin were informed by the state environmental regulator (OEFA) that heavy metals and hydrocarbon particles were present in their water sources and food. The National Water Authority identified excessive levels of lead and petrol derivatives in water supplies. Ten disused wells were also found without the required closure plans. They continue to pollute their surroundings.

Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal was expected to visit the Loreto region to declare a state of environmental emergency for 90 days. However his visit was cancelled, allegedly at the request of local leaders. In response, hundreds of members of indigenous communities from the Corrientes river basin blocked the highway to a neighbouring district. They also threatened to stop operations at the oil wells of Lot 192, in which Argentine oil company Pluspetrol operates.

Loreto is the location for one of the first pilot projects for Peru’s law on the prior consultation of indigenous communities. At the start of October, the vice-minister for indigenous affairs told the a visiting representative of the UN Human Rights Committee that the long-awaited database of qualifying communities would be published ‘within a few days’. By the time of writing, the list still had not been made public, making the vice-minister’s pledge the latest in many broken promises on the matter since April 2012.

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