The Peruvian Amazon oil spills nobody is talking about!

Lima, Peru (DailyHaze) – Thousands of barrels of crude oil have spilled into the Peruvian Amazon and the world appears to be turning a blind eye. In the last two months, two major spills have dumped at least 3,000 barrels of crude oil into two rivers relied upon by roughly eight indigenous communities for water and fish. Some have reported a third spill, but that has not been confirmed.

The spills are said to be caused from poor maintenance by the oil company PetroPerú. It is said the company neglected to conduct routine maintenance on the pipelines over the years. The Achuar, Shapra, Wampis and Awajún are just some of the indigenous communities impacted by one of the spills that released an estimated 2,000 barrels into the local rivers.

These spills are destroying the ecosystem in the area and causing major health concerns for those in the immediate area. Locals can no longer drink from the water, or use the rivers as a source for fish. PetroPerú has promised a full clean up, along with providing food and water for locals impacted by the spills.

While PetroPerú is claiming to have the situation under control, locals in the area have attempted to clean up the spills themselves. The locals claim that both PetroPerú and the government has had a very slow response time to the environmental disaster that has affected at least 8,000 people. Images of children, without protective gear, cleaning oil from the spills have emerged. Some claim that PetroPerú paid these children to get involved in the cleanup, a claim PetroPerú’s President, German Velasquez, denies. However, Velasquez is considering firing four company officials who possibly allowed the children to participate in the cleanup.

As PetroPerú does their best to downplay the seriousness of the situation, The Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest) claims this is just the latest incident in a long list of catastrophes from the company. A public opinion letter from the AIDESEP website goes into further detail. The public opinion roughly translates as follows.

“The January 25, 2016 there was a break in one of the most important oil core of the country, the North Peruvian Pipeline located in the northern jungle of Peru. This caused the equivalent of at least 2,000 barrels of oil spill, which has affected immediately to the nearest populations manner and generated a huge oil slick that due to the rains, reached a tributary of the Marañón River, Chiriaco river. This happens now in the town of Chiriaco Imaza district, located in the province of Bagua and in the Amazon region.

According to estimates by the Ombudsman of Peru, from 2011 this would be the fifth spill that occurs through the fault of the state company Petroperu, which no longer talks about an accident isolated as mentioned wanted the oil present, but systematic negligence that directly affect the awajun communities, local population to the ecosystem.

This environmental disaster in the long list of such events constantly occur in the area due to misuse of the Nor Peruano pipeline and what the minister of Environment of Peru, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, considered an “obsolete product adds without proper maintenance. ” Only this year has been another large spill in a nearby area, in the Morona River in the province of DATEM Maranon in the Loreto region, with dire consequences for life in the area

This area has historically been the territory of Amazonian indigenous peoples. For example, in the case of Chiriaco Awajún; and in the case of Morona, the Achuar, Wampis, Chapra, for whom any impairment to their lands and rivers directly affects their health, food safety and even put their lives at risk as a result of the worst forms of child labor because which in many cases they are children who are being hired to pick up the spilled oil. It is by this that do not understand the slowness with which the Peruvian state agencies have reacted to this environmental emergency. Notably, the company Petroperu, state enterprise and private law engaged in the transportation, refining, distribution and marketing of fuels and other petroleum products, took several weeks to recognize the disaster and recently as a result of the pressure in the media communication has decided to take more severe measures.

It is also an area of ​​very close to many communities Awajun biodiversity, community reserves and Tuntanain Chayu Nain, they inhabit endemic species and some endangered. In fact, the Maranon River is a major tributary of the Amazon river in South America landmark that will be affected for a long time and long tour of the huge oil slick and all that that implies.

In recent weeks they have seen images of the devastation caused by this spill. The Chiriaco River become a black river gorges impassable by the presence of oil, children and youth awajún oil-stained from head to toe. This disaster requires a quick joint action to contain the effects that is having on the population and the flora and fauna. However, so far, little is being done about it.

Throughout the day, the company has maintained a denial PetroPerú position, changing version of the figures of the spill and affected populations, leading us to believe that is not taking seriously the damage assessment. We consider it essential for a fair assessment of the damage to take the necessary measures for thorough solution to this environmental disaster.

We call on international public opinion, the media, NGOs and civil to pay attention to this serious event which endangers the lives of thousands of people living in the area, one of the poorest in the country associations, and they have been traditionally neglected.

While the Agency for Assessment and Environmental Control (OEFA) has taken action in this regard, you have not made the necessary energy to allow a glimpse of a clear policy and a solution in the medium term. The agency, under the Ministry of Environment, has sufficient powers to take corrective measures and exigírselas Petroperu.

It is important that other state institutions such as the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Health, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the Presidential Office itself join, among others, to assess, raise public awareness and solve this serious problem.

Does it make sense that the system of ’emergency’ ‘wait’ to come by helicopter from Iquitos or Chiclayo, having numerous communities can intervene immediately? Therefore, we demand that an agreement be established to organize an indigenous Community system of surveillance, monitoring, early warning and emergency intervention, by indigenous communities, which have autonomy, but with training and logistics to provide Petroperu through an agreement with Chiriaco local organization, which is ORPIAN, and the Morona, CORPI, and in both cases supported by AIDESEP.

We demand clean water, human and environmental health, compensation for the population!

We demand repair of the pipeline, starting with the Amazon section: DATEM, Condorcanqui, Chiriaco!

Indian demand Monitoring System Pipeline!


Oil barrell Image Source: olle svensson, Flickr, Creative Commons

Oil barrell
Image Source: olle svensson, Flickr, Creative Commons

The indigenous communities are facing great danger, yet the government of Peru seems to be doing nothing to protect them, or their precious land. Over 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been leased by the government to oil companies. A large portion of this area is inhabited by uncontacted tribes. Tribes that have made it quite clear they do not wish to have contact with the outside world. These tribes have experienced devastating results from making contact. Their immune systems are not able to adapt to simple illnesses brought in from outside sources.

Due to oil exploration lead by Shell in the 1980’s, contact was made with the Nahua tribe. Within a few years over 50% of the Nahua tribe was dead. Further contact with these tribes by outsiders in the name of oil and gas will only cause more damage. The damage being done to both the land and the people is past the point of irreversible. To make matters worse, these oil spills are receiving very little attention, despite the significant damage they have caused and the slow response rate locals have received. As of now, it is expected the area could experience more spills in the near future, even before the current cleanups are finished.

This report prepared by Meko Haze for Daily Haze.