Peruvian oil abandons plan to drill in uncontacted indigenous zone, but opens up new areas.
Perupetro, the Peruvian government’s oil and gas corporate leasing body, announced last week that it will open an additional 25 lots for oil and gas exploration in the Amazon covering an area of 10 million hectares (nearly 25 million acres).
Peru’s national Amazon indigenous group, AIDESEP, criticized the move calling it a ‘new threat’ to Peru’s indigenous group. According to Amazon Watch these new lots mean that 75 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is now open to oil and gas exploration and drilling.
“Peru is opening some of the most remote regions of the Amazon to oil drilling, threatening some of the most biodiverse forests on the planet and the lives of the indigenous peoples who depend on this forest for their livelihoods,” said Atossa Soltani, Amazon Watch Executive Director in a press release. “The current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a clear demonstration of the risks involved. An oil spill in the Amazon would create an ecological disaster.”
Oil and gas blocks in the western Amazon as of February 2010. Solid yellow indicates blocks already leased out to companies. Hashed yellow indicates proposed blocks or blocks still in the negotiation phase. Protected areas shown are those considered strictly protected by the IUCN (categories I to III). Image modified from Finer M, Jenkins CN, Pimm SL, Keane B, Ross C, 2008 Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2932. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002932
Indigenous groups have long been fighting big oil in the South American country. Last year the conflict turned violent: a standoff between indigenous protestors and government police ended with 23 police officers and at least 10 protestors dead.
Perupetro also made the announcement that it will abandon plans for oil exploration in an area with uncontacted tribal peoples. Lot 110, which was previously open to Brazilian company, Petrobras, will now be made off-limits.
According to Survival International, the uncontacted tribe is known either as Murunahua or Chitonahua. When some members of the tribe where contacted in the mid-1990s it is estimated that half of them died. Having had little exposure to many diseases, uncontacted natives are in grave danger when contacted by outsiders.
“It’s good news that the Murunahua Reserve has been made off-limits to oil and gas companies because it would have been extremely dangerous to the tribes, and the companies would have had no consent to operate there. But Perupetro must now extend that precedent to other areas in Peru: it must not allow companies to work anywhere where they don’t have the consent of local people—uncontacted or not,” Survival International director, Stephen Corry, said in a press release.
A study earlier in the year found that 41 percent of the Peruvian Amazon was already covered by 52 active oil and gas concessions. The space under concession had grown six times in seven years. The study also found that many of the concessions infringed on protected areas and indigenous territory, exacerbating the conflict between indigenous groups and the Peruvian government, led by President Alan Garcia who is known for his inflammatory rhetoric against indigenous groups, labeling them “confused savages” among other derogatory terms.
Under siege: oil and gas concessions cover 41 percent of the Peruvian Amazon
(02/16/2010) A new study in the Environmental Research Letter finds that the Peruvian Amazon is being overrun by the oil and gas industries. According to the study 41 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is currently covered by 52 separate oil and gas concessions, nearly six times as much land as was covered in 2003. “We found that more of the Peruvian Amazon has recently been leased to oil and gas companies than at any other time on record,” explained co-author Dr. Matt Finer of the Washington DC-based Save America’s Forests in a press release. The concessions even surpass the oil boom in the region during the 1970s and 80s, which resulted in extensive environmental damage.
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Spanish oil company develops own rules for contacting uncontacted Amazon tribes
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Peru to proceed with oil and gas auctions in the Amazon despite indigenous protests
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Peru to raise payment to indigenous communities for Amazon forest conservation
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Peru suspends decree that triggered bloody conflict between Indians and police
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Peruvian police kill 10 Indians in battle over Amazon oil drilling
(06/06/2009) At least 30 are dead following a clash between police and Indians protesting oil development in Peru’s Amazon region.