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Gas firm to move deeper into reserve for indigenous people in Peru

Amazon Rainforest in Peru

Gas expansion project is a threat to indigenous people living in ‘voluntary isolation’ in the Amazon rainforest of Peru. Photograph: Nicholas Gill /Alamy


Powered by article titled “Gas firm to move deeper into reserve for indigenous people in Peru” was written by David Hill, for on Monday 27th January 2014 18.08 UTC

Peru’s ministry of culture (Mincu) has given its approval for the expansion of the country’s biggest gas project in a reserve for indigenous people and the buffer zone of the Manu national park.

The expansion will involve drilling 18 wells, conducting seismic tests across hundreds of square kms, and building a 6.5 mile flowline in the supposedly protected Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Reserve for indigenous people in “voluntary isolation” and “initial contact.”

Mincu’s approval constitutes a dramatic U-turn following its report last July on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the expansion warning that the Nahua could be “devastated” and the Kirineri and Nanti made “extinct” because of their vulnerability to diseases.

The July report listed in considerable detail numerous potential negative impacts on the reserve’s inhabitants – “fatal epidemics”, less food to eat, game scared away, lack of access to resources – and effectively made it impossible for most of the planned expansion to go ahead.

However, the July report was removed from the public sphere almost immediately and rescinded a week later, and, following resignations by the culture minister and other key Mincu personnel, a “special team” from outside the ministry was contracted to write another report.

That team’s report, dated November 2013, was far less critical in general but requested that Pluspetrol, the company leading the operations, abandon plans for 3D seismic tests in the Upper River Paquiria region in the reserve due to “the possible presence of people in isolation.”

Pluspetrol responded to Mincu’s request by agreeing, on 13 January, to reduce its 3D tests area by 8,198 hectares – a tiny reduction given that the total 3D tests area was scheduled to be 379 sq kms and the 2D tests area 179 sq kms (see map below).

Despite that, nine days later, the vice-ministry of inter-culturality (VMI) – the state institution responsible for indigenous peoples and situated within Mincu – issued a “resolution” approving Pluspetrol’s EIA. According to a Mincu statement made public the following day:

Given the social sensitivity in the area, the process of evaluating the EIA has followed the highest standards in order to protect the population in isolation and initial contact, which is why it has requested the company to carry out the exploration in a sequential manner (the different activities can’t be done simultaneously), medical control of its workers, and limits on people entering its concession, among other things. At the same time, the “no contact” principle will be respected, which is why, among other measures, it has been requested that the area of exploration in the north-east of the concession is limited in order not to affect the possible transit of people in isolation in the River Paquiria basin.

Mincu makes this claim despite the fact that Pluspetrol’s “Anthropological contingency plan” encourages its workers to interact with the “people in isolation” if contact is made, suggesting they strike up conversation, offer them food and hospitality, and take photos – as long as no flash is used.

Moreover, Mincu is permitting exploration in the north-east of the concession, Lot 88, where, in the Upper River Serjali and River Bobinzana regions, most of the 3D tests would be held and nine wells drilled, despite vaguely acknowledging the existence of “people in isolation” there.

Likewise, Mincu is permitting exploration in the Upper River Cashiriari region in the south-east of Lot 88 where Pluspetrol plans to do 2D tests, implying, in its November report, that there are no “people in isolation” there and contradicting the July report stating that the 2D tests in that region could make the Nanti “extinct.”


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