Peru has given the go-ahead to the expansion of the Camisea gas project onto the land of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. The impacts on the people and their forest will be devastating.
Peru’s Ministry of Culture has approved plans by Pluspetrol (Argentina), Hunt Oil (USA) and Repsol (Spain) to drill more than 20 new wells and carry out seismic tests in a concession called “Lot 88”. But about three-quarters of the concession is inside a reserve established to protect the livelihoods and lands of the indigenous peoples living there.
Hundreds of workers will move into the Kugapakori, Nahua, Nanti and Others’ Reserve, leaving indigenous peoples extremely vulnerable to diseases or epidemics to which they have no immunity.
When Shell carried out explorations in the area in the 1980s, the company cleared paths into the forest. Subsequently loggers used the paths to enter the region. The result was the death of nearly half of the Nahua tribe.
James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, visited the region in December 2013. In his preliminary observations and recommendations, Anaya wrote,
Clearly these groups are extremely vulnerable, so the government and the company must act with extreme caution and not proceed with the proposed expansion without first ensuring conclusively that their human rights would not be violated.
He also noted Peru’s international obligations under UN Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples, and wrote that,
The government should to carry out a process of consultation with indigenous peoples in the area of Lot 88 before taking a decision on the proposed expansion of the mining project.
In approving the Camisea extension, Peru ignored the UN’s recommendations.
Earlier this month, Forest Peoples Programme produced a detailed report revealing the severe impacts of the Camisea gas project on isolated indigenous peoples.
The Kugapakori-Nahua Reserve was created in 1990, covering an area of 443,887 hectares. It was set up to protect the rights of the Kugapakori and Nahua indigenous peoples.
In 2003, Peru’s President issued a Supreme Decree and an updated map which upgraded the legal status of the reserve. It also changed its name to the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti and Others’ Reserve. The aim of the reserve was to protect its “territorial, ecological and economic integrity” for the benefit of the “Kugapakori, Nahua, Nanti and other indigenous peoples” living in “voluntary isolation” and “initial contact”.
The Decree prohibits “development of economic activities” other than those of the people living there, and prohibits granting of “new rights” to exploit natural resources.
The are more than 40 REDD projects in Peru and the government is involved in the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the UN-REDD programme. But as in other countries, REDD is taking place in parallel with business as usual. In terms of stopping deforestation (or even reducing it), REDD is irrelevant as long as it fails to address the drivers of deforestation.
A recent report by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that Peru’s rate of deforestation is likely to increase rather than decrease. Mary Menton, one of the authors of the report said,
“Peru is experiencing economic growth. Much of this growth is happening — and is likely to keep on happening — at the expense of the Peruvian Amazon.
“All this investment is going on without full consideration of the social and environmental impacts. And there isn’t enough in the way of policies or institutions that serve to protect the forest.”
Commenting specifically about the Camisea expansion project, Conrad Feather of Forest Peoples Programme told to The Guardian,
“The problem with such plans is that they avoid the fundamental question that these peoples, and not the Peruvian government or an oil and gas company, should be determining their own future.
“We are being asked to believe that a series of guidelines on paper, however well thought out, are sufficient to address the inherently unpredictable and potentially lethal nature of first contact, a Pandora’s box that once opened, no one, not even a multinational oil and gas company, can control.”