Collateral Damage – Oil Stains Peru's Amazon, Again
- February 19, 2016
- Andrew Miller
History is repeating itself in the northern Peruvian Amazon, where three oil spills have been reported along the Northern Peruvian Pipeline since January 25th. The first incident, along the Chiriaco River, released an estimated 2000 barrels of oil, affecting eight Awajún indigenous communities and some 5000 people. On February 3rd, another thousand barrels contaminated the territories of Wampis communities, in the proximity of some 3500 people. And news reports are claiming a third spill near Pucará, though the pipeline operator Petroperu has taken to Twitter to deny this.
These aren't the first pipeline ruptures in the northern section of Peru's Amazon. In late 2014, Amazon Watch brought international journalists to the Kukama communities of Cuninico and San Pedro along the Marañon River, which had each seen devastating spills that year. Thereafter, the outlet Fusion.net published a multimedia article titled, Indigenous groups fight back against oil industry after pipeline spills poison the Amazon. As detailed in the Peruvian blog La Mula, the Peruvian government's Office for Environmental Evaluation and Oversight (OEFA) published a recent report detailing 20 spills over the last five years.
Peruvian indigenous organizations and human rights groups are informing the public about the evolving situation and denouncing the government's response. AIDESEP, the country's largest Amazonian indigenous federation, is planning a protest outside of Petroperu's Lima headquarters to pressure for both corrective and preventative actions. In their Facebook invitation to the protest, they state, "AIDESEP won't step backwards in the face of this environmental tragedy and will demand that Petroperu stop pumping oil through obsolete tubes, which should have been replaced more than 35 years ago. We demand guarantees for our lives within our territories!"
Yesterday the Indigenous Rights Working Group of Peru's National Human Rights Coordinating Body issued a statement, noting that, "The spills demonstrate the Peruvian government's inattention and laziness in respect to maintenance of their own strategic energy installations that pass through important and highly sensitive sections of the Amazon region and the territories of native communities, violating the rights of Peruvian citizens to conserve a clean environment and count on guarantees of good health... In this sense we demand the repairs of highly deteriorated pipelines, in addition to establishing compensation for the affected indigenous communities."