The Peruvian government announced Thursday that it will meet with Indigenous communities early next year to discuss Peru’s natural resource extraction projects. The meetings, scheduled between February and March 2013, mark the first time the Peruvian government will consult with indigenous communities about controversial projects like Lot 1AB in the northeastern Amazonian region of Loreto. The site is owned and operated by the Argentine company Pluspetrol, whose contract expires in 2015.
Indigenous community leaders of Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre and Marañón in the jungle region of Loreto have denounced the government and have reported pollution problems as a result of drilling operations that are located near their communities. David Chino, the vice president of the Quechua Indigenous Federation of Pastaza, said that “the government has ignored us and has not obliged the companies to comply with their commitments.”
A report issued in July by a congressional working group that visited the region concluded that the toxicity level at Lot 1AB is so high “that the use of bioremediation to break down the oil would be useless.” The congressional working group’s report identifies the corrosion of the pipelines used to transport the oil as the main cause for the spills.
However, representatives of Pluspetrol claim that the contamination was caused by acts of vandalism. The claims are currently under legal investigation.
“We think it is good that they will hold a consultation,” said Achuar Indigenous leader Andrés Santi, president of the Federation of Native Communities of Corrientes. “But how can they repair all of the damage they have done to us in the last 40 years in just a short time?”
Peru is implementing consultations with Indigenous groups in compliance with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which governs projects in ancestral Indigenous territories.
In a pretend conversation written in Una Hoja de Papel, a child asks his grandfather what Guatemala's Lake Atitlán—Central America’s deepest lake—was once like. "It was very beautiful, crystal clear waters, you could see through the waters to the pebbles on the shore," the grandfather recalls. "It was once nominated as one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The couples chose this destination to spend their honeymoon. Undoubtedly, an enigmatic place of quiet waters and unparalleled splendor." "But, what happened?" the grandson asked. "Simple, we stood idly with our arms crossed," the grandfather said.
Today Lake Atitlan—located within an hour’s drive of Antigua—is drowning in a film of green scum. NASA pictures taken just a few weeks show the lake as massive swirls of blue-green algae or cyanobacteria that, besides looking ugly and foreboding, literally make the lake stink. A result of long-term, excessive pollution.
The situation has gained attention from international media and local publications like Prensa Libre and The Revue. The lake even earned the unfortunate distinction the “Threatened Lake of the Year 2009” by the Global Nature Fund. But is it human pollution or an environmental imbalance that has caused the lake to enter a coma and possibly an impending death?