The Peruvian Amazon, the fourth largest expanse of tropical rainforest in the world, is home to thousands of indigenous peoples speaking dozens of languages, including some of the last groups living with little or no direct contact with the outside world. Tragically, since 2003 nearly three quarters of the Peruvian Amazon has been leased to the international oil industry for the highest bid.
Indigenous titled territories and reserves including the last refuges for indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation are now under grave threat – and North American oil companies are leading the charge. For indigenous peoples who depend on fishing, hunting and forest products, this loss of control over ancestral territories threatens to end their traditional ways of life.
Amazon Watch supports indigenous communities across the Peruvian Amazon who are fighting to defend their territory, culture and livelihood against the threats of large scale industrial resource extraction. Our work in Peru is focused on pressuring the Peruvian government and the international extractives industry to respect indigenous rights, redress past harms caused by negligent operations, and halt the expansion of damaging oil operations in the Amazon.
Thirty-five years of oil production in Block 1-AB in the northern Peruvian Amazon have left the Achuar, Urarina and Quechua indigenous peoples who live in the area suffering oil-related illness, malnutrition, and social disruption. Successive oil companies – first US-based Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) and now Argentina's Pluspetrol – have been pumping oil in the concession known as Block 1-AB since the early 1970's. Until very recently, flagrant pollution has been the norm. Instead of installing basic safeguard technology, the companies chose to pollute the area for decades, lowering their production costs and maximizing return for their shareholders and executives. Local people, however, have paid the price. Today, Oxy's legacy of harm continues to be felt; the area is peppered with legacy toxic waste sites, polluting the rivers and food chain. Amazon Watch is working to support the indigenous peoples of Blocks 1-AB and Block 8 to hold Oxy and Pluspetrol accountable for their past and ongoing toxic harms. Learn more »
Deep in the heart of Achuar territory along the Pastaza and Morona Rivers of the northern Peruvian Amazon, the Canadian-based company Talisman Energy is exploring for oil. After more than 14 years of fighting planned oil development in their territory – and successfully forcing out other international oil giants such as ARCO and Burlington Resources – the Achuar are resolved to defend their territory against the threats posed by Talisman. Amazon Watch supports the Achuar in the fight to defend their territory, culture and livelihood against the harms of oil development by leveraging international media, grassroots and shareholder pressure to force Talisman to respect the Achuar's decision to live in a territory free of oil development. Learn more »
Much of the northern Peruvian Amazon is covered by oil concessions that overlap areas of extreme ecological and cultural sensitivity, including areas occupied by indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. Because of the serious risks posed by oil extraction activities in these areas, Amazon Watch is working with local indigenous groups and socially responsible investment groups to pressure the companies operating in these areas to adopt a "No Go Zones" policy in ecologically sensitive areas and areas inhabited by isolated peoples. A principle objective of Amazon Watch's corporate accountability work is to produce industry-wide policy changes that will ensure respect for indigenous rights. Learn more »
Indigenous peoples have faced numerous challenges in recent years as the Peruvian government continues a policy that marginalizes and discriminates against them while aggressively promoting the extraction of natural resources from indigenous traditional territories in the Amazon. Following the tragic clashes in the city of Bagua in 2009, over new laws unilaterally passed by President Alan Garcia that instituted major changes to land rights and forestry, four discussion roundtables were set up to investigate what happened, analyze the problematic legislation, develop a consultation law and prepare an indigenous development policy. Unfortunately, while some important advances were made, the government reacted by criminalizing indigenous leaders and their supporters and denying responsibility for events in Bagua. In spring 2010, the Peruvian Congress approved a bill mandating consultation by the government with indigenous peoples on any projects proposed for their territories, but President Garcia refused to sign it. The Garcia government has come under increasing fire within the United Nations for failing to consult indigenous peoples and fulfill its obligations under international law. Learn more »