At a meeting in Pucallpa on 27 February, representatives of eleven Shipibo and Asháninka communities affected by the 447,000 hectare oil and gas concession in Aguaytía and Ucayali (Lot 200), demanded a more thorough consultation process given the scope and duration of the project.

Within five years, Perupetro and its Spanish contractor CEPSA expect to be extracting 100,000 barrels of crude daily, continuing over the duration of the 40-year concession.

So far, the consultation process, which the Ministry of Energy and Mines (Minem) initiated last year, has appealed to lofty patriotic ideals in reducing the country’s dependence on imported fuel, as well as the potential for royalties and local development initiatives. While such benefits may appeal to the regional government, they do little to allay concerns of local communities whose forests, rivers and lakes are at risk of contamination.

At the consultation meeting, the communities appealed for greater continuity in representation by the state, with participation from the Ministry of Culture as well as Minem and Perupetro. They also demanded more technical information and its adequate translation. The fact that the communities’ leaders had not yet seen or discussed the detailed bid for the concession led them to demand a repeat of earlier stages of the consultation.

Peruvian law acknowledges the right of indigenous peoples to free prior and informed consent regarding exploitation of resources in their territories. Yet historically this has not given adequate protection to other groups, most notably the Kichwa whose territory on the border with Ecuador has been polluted for decades by Lot 192 and the antiquated pipeline that transports oil to the coastal refineries.

The Shipibo and Asháninka have the advantage of prior legal advice from the Instituto de Defensa Legal, and are not to be rushed into a merely cosmetic consent.