Wampis autonomous government declares a state of environmental emergency after oil spill

Oil spillage in the community of Mayuriaga, Peru
Wampis photographer

Wampis autonomous government declares a state of environmental emergency after oil spill

The Wampis autonomous government has issued a Supreme Order declaring the area affected the oil spill in the community of Mayuriaga to be in a state of environmental emergency.

According to Peru’s regulatory body of the environment OEFA, 1,000 barrels of oil spilled into the community land on 3 February 2016 when a 40-year-old pipeline owned by the state oil company Petroperú ruptured.

The spill affected 400m2 of land, and flowed into the Cashacaño river, which then flows into the river Morona.

The Supreme Order (available in Spanish) declares a six-month state of emergency and highlights the need to clean the land.

It was issued following a second historic summit held by the Wampis government.

In a bid to secure control over their land, the indigenous Wampis nation formed an autonomous territorial government in November 2015, electing their first government representatives, and approving and publishing their Statute, the legal framework they use to govern the territory.

Their first Resolution declared the totality of their ancestral territory, an area of more than 1.4 million hectares, as an integrated territory. This means that any development programmes or other projects operating in a part of Wampis territory must first secure the consent of the Wampis government rather than the permission of the closest village.

This second summit convened almost 100 of the government's newly elected representatives and was called to coincide with the Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights. Launched in early March 2016, the Globall Call is an international movement campaigning for the global area of land legally recognised as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities to double by 2020. 

For the Wampis, currently only approximately 400,000 ha of their 1.4 million hectares of traditional land are formally recognised by the Peruvian government. At a national level Peru’s national indigenous organisation AIDESEP estimates that approximately 20 million hectares of indigenous territories remain unrecognised. At a global level, only around 10 per cent of the lands some 2.5 billion people depend on are formally recognised as owned by indigenous peoples and local communities.