in Peru

Gas extraction and REDD in Peru: You can’t have your cake and eat it

Gas extraction and REDD in Peru: You can't have your cake and eat itPeru’s Vice Ministry of Interculturalism is currently carrying out a project to protect Territorial Reserves for Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation or in initial contact. The US$1 million project is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Part of the project will include an an analysis of carbon stocks with a view to developing REDD projects to fund protection of the reserves. Of course, this is the same Inter-American Development Bank that helped finance the Camisea gas project – 75% of which is inside one of the reserves that the IDB is now supposed to be protecting. The Nahua/Kugapakori Reserve was established in 1990 to protect the Nahua and Kugapakori (also known as the Nanti) indigenous groups from the dangers of contact with Peruvian national society.

If you don’t stop being blind
To your sorrow you will find
You can’t have your cake and eat it
— Fats Waller: You can’t have your cake and eat it

The Camisea project (Lot 88) is one of the biggest gas projects in the Amazon. But it’s not big enough for the companies involved. Pluspetrol, an Argentine gas company, is planning to extend its operations into the Manú national park, a World Heritage Site that UNESCO describes as having biodiversity that “exceeds that of any other place on Earth”.

A report by consulting firm Quartz Services that was leaked to The Guardian explains,

“Our mission, as an institution providing specialist technical services to Pluspetrol, will be to contribute not only to the continuation of activities in Lot 88, but also to the development of the Manú National Park protected area. Pluspetrol has plans to do geological exploration in the River Maquizapango region and/or its surroundings, an area to the east of the Lot (88) and inside the Manú National Park.”

If Pluspetrol goes ahead with its plans, the impacts on the forests and the Indigenous Peoples living there would be devastating. In 2003, a Supreme Decree prohibited the expansion of the Camisea gas project within the Nahua/Kugapakori Reserve. In December 2012, four indigenous organisations in Peru, AIDESEP, FENAMAD, ORAU and COMARU, announced they will take legal action against the government and the companies involved over the planned expansion of Camisea.

Needless to say, the IDB-funded REDD project has nothing to say about stopping the expansion of gas operations inside Indigenous Peoples’ territory. The IDB’s REDD project document can be downloaded here (in Spanish, pdf file, 254.5 kB). The project has four components:

  1. Studies for inspection and categorisation of Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation: studies for five new reserves, including Napo-Tigre reserve where Anglo-French oil company Perenco is operating, close to the border with Ecuador and Yasuni. Studies would also look at Nahua/Kugapakori Reserve (threatened by the expansion of Camisea) and four more reserves to “upgrade” them to Indigenous Reserves (a more secure category of indigenous reserves), and cartographic studies for these five reserves.
  2. Communication and awareness strategy: includes hiring a consulting firm to design a communication strategy about Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation in Peru, aimed at the general population of Peru and communities living near the reserves.
  3. Pilot project for the protection of the Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve.
  4. An analysis of avoided deforestation in the Indigenous Reserves: including a carbon stocks inventory and a financial strategy based on REDD carbon credits.

The Inter-American Development Bank and the Peruvian government helped extract the gas below the Nahua/Kugapakori Reserve without asking the people who live there first or worrying too much about endangering their lives. Now they want the carbon credits from Indigenous Peoples’ forests, while doing nothing to prevent the expansion of gas exploration and extraction.

PHOTO Credit: Survival International.

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  1. Good news! It looks like Pluspetrol will not be allowed to pursue its expansion plans. See this press release from Survival International:


    February 15, 2013

    SUCCESS: Gas giant backtracks on exploration in UNESCO World Heritage Site

    The Argentine gas giant Pluspetrol has publicly backtracked on plans to expand the notorious Camisea gas project in southeast Peru into one of the most biodiverse places on earth, following a shock exposure this week by The Guardian newspaper and Survival International.

    The company has released a statement in which it admitted planning what it described as ‘superficial geological studies… for scientific interest,’ in Manu National Park, but promising that it had now abandoned these plans.

    The Peruvian national parks authority Sernanp has also released a statement following the media storm, confirming it had denied Pluspetrol’s request to work in the area on the grounds that the Manu’s protected status ‘expressly prohibits the exploitation of natural resources’.

    For the full press release, click here.