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Two lawsuits to stop Peru’s biggest gas project in indigenous reserve

Indigenous Peoples in Peru

A Matsigenka woman in south-east Peru where the Camisea gas project is taking place. Photograph: Glenn Shepard


Powered by article titled “Two lawsuits to stop Peru’s biggest gas project in indigenous reserve” was written by David Hill, for on Tuesday 25th February 2014 14.38 UTC

Three Peruvian judges are scheduled to meet on 1 April following a lawsuit filed to stop a gas consortium from operating in a reserve in the Amazon created for indigenous peoples living in “initial contact” and “voluntary isolation.”

There are already wells in the west of the reserve where gas has been produced for years, and last month the Energy Ministry approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the expansion of operations involving more wells, a pipeline extension and seismic tests further to the north, east and south.

The lawsuit was filed against the Energy Ministry and the company leading the consortium, Pluspetrol, in August 2013 by the Lima-based Institute for the Legal Defence of the Environment and Sustainable Development (IDLADS). It asks the judge to order, among other things, the Energy Ministry to rescind its approval of the expansion and to ban all oil and gas operations in the reserve:

We request that [the judge] orders the Ministry of Energy and Mines to exclude the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti and Others’ Reserve from any kind of promotion, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons.

The lawsuit also asks the judge to order Pluspetrol to “refrain from exploring for or exploiting hydrocarbons” in the reserve, and to respond to observations in a technical report on the EIA by the Culture Ministry in July last year which stated that the new wells, pipeline and seismic tests could “devastate” or make “extinct” the reserve’s inhabitants and was subsequently rescinded.

IDLADS claims that operations in the reserve violate the Peruvian constitution, Peruvian law and international law, and the reserve’s inhabitants’ rights to a “healthy and balanced environment”, self-determination, life, health, “ethnic and cultural identity”, “biological and cultural integrity”, dignity, territory, property, ancestral possession and prior consultation.

Almost 75% of the gas concession, created in 2000 and called Lot 88, overlaps the reserve, which was established 10 years earlier. In 2003, the reserve was granted greater legal protection by a Supreme Decree “guaranteeing [its] territorial integrity”, banning “human settlements” different to those of the reserve’s inhabitants, banning the “granting of new rights involving the exploitation of natural resources”, and ensuring that “existing rights to exploit natural resources must be carried out with the maximum considerations to guarantee that the rights of the reserve’s inhabitants are not affected”, but operations have continued and two major phases of expansion approved.

“We’re not against the exploitation of gas in Lot 88,” says IDLADS’s president, Henry Carhuatocto Sandoval. “What we’re against is the exploitation of gas in Lot 88 which violates the intangibility of the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Reserve and the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples living there.”

On 15 August the lawsuit was declared “inadmissible” in a “resolution” by judge David Suarez Burgos mainly on the grounds that it was “beyond the territorial competence of a Lima Constitutional Judge.”

IDLADS appealed and the case is now due to be considered on 1 April by three judges from the “1st Sala Civil” within the Superior Court of Lima. IDLADS wasn’t notified of Suarez Burgos’s verdict until October 2013, and a “Sala Civil” “resolution” announcing the April hearing is stamped 28 January – the day after the Energy Ministry approved the EIA of the new wells, pipeline and seismic tests.

The gas in Lot 88 comes from two gas fields to the north and south of the River Camisea, and the Camisea gas project – as operations there and neighbouring concession Lot 56 are known – is Peru’s largest energy development and plays a key role in Peru’s economy. Three of the four producing well locations in Lot 88 are in the reserve and, according to the state oil and gas agency Perupetro, Lot 88 accounted for 43% of Peru’s natural gas output in 2012 and 43% between January to November 2013.

“We think our request [prohibiting operations in the reserve] is realistic,” says IDLADS’s Lilyan Delgadillo. “If the contract for Lot 56 [which has produced even more gas than Lot 88 in recent years] was renegotiated, the internal national demand for gas could be easily met and the pressure on indigenous peoples’ territories and protected natural areas would be reduced.”


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