Indigenous Peoples stand up to oil companies in Peru
In 2020, the Government of Peru allocated 260 million Peruvian Soles (PEN) (approximately USD 72 million) of public funds to remediate tropical forest sites damaged by oil exploitation on Indigenous territory in the Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre and Marañon river basins. With this, the government took a step towards implementing the Law on remuneration for environmental remediation.
Fifty years of oil exploitation have caused extensive damage in the territories of the Achuar, Kukama, Quechua and Kichwa peoples deep in the Amazon rainforest of Peru. They are fighting for recognition of the historic debt owed to them by the oil industry and the government. The four Indigenous groups achieved important commitments from the Peruvian government in 2015. Through Law 30321, a seed fund of PEN 50 million (today equivalent to nearly USD 14 million), was established for the remediation of affected sites. The Law also ensured Indigenous representation and voting rights on the Board administering the funds. With the funds provided, 32 rehabilitation plans were developed, but it was concluded that remediation of these sites alone would amount to a staggering PEN 600 million (approximately USD 166 million). In fact, however, there are more than 3,000 sites in the oil exploitation areas of Block 1AB/192 and Block 8 (which affects the four river basins) that have been impacted and ought to be remediated by the companies and the government. This shows the immense cost of the environmental damage.
Organised under the PUINAMUDT platform, and supported by NGOs such as Peru Equidad, the federations of the four Indigenous groups are coordinating effective advocacy for environmental remediation and accountability on the part of the oil industry and the government. The disbursement obtained in 2020 is an extraordinary achievement not least due to the current economic crisis caused by the pandemic, which has created pressure to allocate resources elsewhere. Another important achievement has been the agreement of the Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement (Organismo de Evaluación y Fiscalización Ambiental) to consolidate an official list of the numerous sites identified by Indigenous environmental monitors over the years.
In 2020, IWGIA supported PUINAMUDT to undertake key advocacy work to contribute to the above achievements. Among other activities, a public event was held to denounce the 5th anniversary since the Pluspetrol Norte company left Block 1AB without an approved exit plan and with more than 1,000 sites pending remediation. The Indigenous federations were also supported to organise assemblies in the affected areas in order to gather voices from the ground to ensure accountability of PUINAMUDT’s advocacy efforts for the affected communities. Further to this, IWGIA supported eight Indigenous women and men to perform the task of environmental territorial monitoring. They have identified and documented 19 new spills which the oil companies had delayed in notifying to the government and local population. This information has been submitted to the Environmental Enforcement Tribunal so that it can confirm the responsibility of the Block 192 operating company and sanction them for not responding to the spills. In the words of the monitoring coordinator of the Pastaza basin: “The project support has allowed us to keep up our guard at all times in terms of vigilance for respect of our rights in this year of COVID, which has been so difficult for our communities.”
This article is a highlight from IWGIA's Annual Report 2020, download the full report and read about our work.