On 2 November four Peruvian indigenous organisations issued a statement opposing recently-approved plans to expand operations in the Camisea gas fields in the south-east of the country which would threaten the ‘physical and cultural survival’ of indigenous peoples in ‘voluntary isolation’ and initial contact. This expansion is scheduled to take place within the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Reserve for isolated peoples which is supposed to be off-limits to extractive industries. However, earlier this year an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the first phase of expansion was approved by Peru’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, despite being challenged by the government’s indigenous affairs department , INDEPA, and questioned by indigenous organisations.
The statement, written by the indigenous organisations AIDESEP, FENAMAD, ORAU and COMARU said that:
Promoting investments in energy projects does not have to violate the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples in isolation or initial contact, who, as has been made clear by the contact forced on them in recent years, are extremely vulnerable… Although it is necessary to meet the national demand for energy over the coming decades, this must be done in accordance with social and environmental obligations and respecting the rights of the most vulnerable indigenous peoples, as stipulated in our Constitution, the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169, and the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We urge the government to establish policies protecting isolated peoples that are based on respect for indigenous Amazonians’ view of the world rather than the extraction of natural resources.
Three days later, at a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington D.C., the expansion of operations in Camisea was condemned by FENAMAD’s president Jaime Corisepa. The hearing was about ‘isolated’ peoples across the continent, but Corisepa placed special emphasis on his home country: ‘I want to go into most detail about Peru,’ he told the Commission. ‘For example, there is the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti Territorial Reserve which has been given legal recognition by the state, but has been superimposed by oil and gas operations for more than twenty years.’
The 2 November statement follows one in August by the same four organisations voicing their opposition to the creation of an entirely new concession, Lot Fitzcarrald, to the east of Lot 88, and a letter concerning both lots to three United Nations Special Rapporteurs earlier the same month. Lot Fitzcarrald threatens to open up even more of the Reserve to gas exploitation as well as part of Manu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which prompted UNESCO to lobby Peru’s government stressing that oil and gas exploration is not compatible with World Heritage sites. In April, Peru’s Energy Minister said Lot Fitzcarrald would be created before the end of this year, but Perupetro recently announced the postponement of its next oil and gas ‘bidding round’, when new lots are announced, until 2013. Could it be that the concerns of indigenous organisations and international human rights organisations have influenced this decision? Time will tell.