April 10, 2012

Hydrocarbon threat to Peru’s Amazon

camisealr.jpgProliferation of oil and gas exploration threatens the Peruvian rainforest

A new wave of oil and gas exploration is underway in Peru following an extraordinary period of letting hydrocarbon concessions by that country’s government.  Almost 50% of the Peruvian Amazon has been allocated to oil and gas concessions.  Over 17% of these overlap with legally protected forest areas and over half of them intrude into indigenous people’s land with fully recognised land titles.


One of the most controversial examples involves the Anglo-French oil company, Perenco, which plans to extract oil from an area known as Lot 67 in the remote Amazon rainforest, pumping 60,000 barrels of crude oil a day for around 20 years.  Not only is this expected to impact on one of the most biodiverse rainforest areas in the world, but this forest area is home to uncontacted (or “autonomous”) indigenous people.

Although offering assistance with healthcare, education and nutrition to the nearest settlements, the company claims that there is no evidence for autonomous Indians living in the project area.  Not only has this claim been disputed by indigenous organisations and major NGOs, the report on which it was based has been severely criticised in respected international press articles.

To extract the oil, Perenco need to lay 200kms of pipline through rainforest that the WWF says contains ‘some of the richest plant and animal communities in the world,’ including the Pucacuro Reserve, an area under State protection since 2005 and is described by Peru’s National Natural Protected Areas Service (SERNANP) as ‘one of the most important areas for biodiversity.

In another corner of the Peruvian Amazon, the Camisea gas project has revealed plans to expand deeper into indigenous territory in an area known to be home to autonomous indigenous groups.

More than 100,000 kms of seismic lines and 679 exploratory and production wells have been implemented in Peru in the last 40 years or so.  It is the new wave, however, which is of great concern to environmentalists and indigenous leaders.  In the last two years, up to 72% of the Peruvian Amazon has been zoned for hydrocarbon activities.

Sources: Environmental Research Letters, Huffington Post and Survival International


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