Indigenous Blockade River, Thwart Talisman Operations in Peru's Amazon
Shuar join Achuar in demanding oil company abandon Block 64
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 20, 2011
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Loreto, Peru – More than 100 Shuar indigenous people have blockaded the Morona River, disrupting Canadian-based Talisman Energy's exploratory drilling operations in remote oil Block 64 of the Peruvian Amazon. At least four of Talisman's cargo boats have been detained in the blockade that started in the early hours of Sunday morning near the community of Puerto Juan. The action highlights escalating tensions between local indigenous groups and the oil company.
"[We] want to protect our territory from indiscriminate exploitation and abuse of our renewable and non-renewable resources," said the Shuar (locally known as Wampis) in a statement, "Talisman has not completed the prior process of consultation and relevant agreements in the framework of respect of the Shuar people of Morona...we do not want Talisman in Shuar territory."
Block 64 overlaps Achuar, Shapra, Shuar and Kandoshi indigenous territories and the Pastaza River Wetland Complex, a site acknowledged under the Ramsar Convention as one of the most productive aquatic ecosystems in the Amazon rainforest. The wetlands in the middle of Block 64 are crucial fishing and hunting grounds for hundreds of surrounding indigenous families and drain into Lake Rimachi, the largest lake in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Achuar, the largest population affected by Block 64, have repeatedly called on Talisman to halt oil exploration in the block, which affects a remote watershed between the Pastaza and Morona rivers in the heart of Achuar ancestral territory.
"The Achuar, Shuar, Kandoshi and Shapra are all in consensus: we want Talisman to leave immediately," said Peas Peas Ayui, President of the Achuar Federation FENAP.
The Shuar are calling for an alternative form of development, without contamination and discrimination, which would respect their way of life, spirituality, and self-determination. They cite the accusations against Talisman in Sudan for assisting human rights abuses, and accuse the company of provoking conflict in Block 64.
"Talisman must respect the decision of the indigenous people living in and around Block 64 and halt oil exploration," said Gregor MacLennan, Peru Program Coordinator at Amazon Watch. "The Shuar, together with the Achuar and other indigenous groups, are sending a clear message that they do not want to risk contaminating important watersheds and their ancestral hunting and fishing grounds by allowing oil development to go ahead."
The Shuar say they will continue the blockade until senior representatives of the company and government offer guarantees and commitments that the indigenous communities' demands will be met.
Talisman Energy began drilling in Block 64 in 2004 and has discovered "high-quality" crude that would allow production of 5,000 barrels a day, according to state oil contracting agency Perupetro. Talisman plans to cut new seismic lines and drill new exploratory wells in the next six months and is planning to begin production in 2012 if the new wells show the find to be commercially viable despite indigenous opposition.