Gas company to drill in Manu National Park buffer zone, imperiling indigenous people
The Peruvian government has approved plans for gas company Pluspetrol to move deeper into a supposedly protected reserve for indigenous peoples and the buffer zone of the Manu National Park in the Amazon rainforest.
The approval follows the government rescinding a highly critical report on the potential impacts of the operations by the Culture Ministry (MINCU), the resignation of the Culture Minister and other Ministry personnel, and repeated criticism from Peruvian and international civil society.
A subsequent report by MINCU requested that Pluspetrol abandon plans to conduct seismic tests in one small part of the reserve because of the "possible presence of [indigenous] people in isolation," but didn't object to tests across a much wider area. In addition to the seismic tests, the planned operations include building a 10.5km flow-line and drilling 18 exploratory wells at six locations—all of them in the reserve which lies immediately to the west of the Manu National Park and acts as part of its buffer zone (see map below).
The government approved the plans on January 27th when the Energy Ministry issued a resolution on the operation's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), written by Pluspetrol together with consultancy Environmental Resources Management.
The decision was swiftly condemned by AIDESEP. The national indigenous organization accused the government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which has played a key role in gas operations in that region to date, of violating their commitments.
AIDESEP writes that "many 'isolated' indigenous people have already died in the name of supposed 'progress.' Enough. If one more brother dies, or is taken ill, or there is conflict, we will hold the state, the gas companies, the IDB and those who irresponsibly promote these policies responsible."
The Energy Ministry could only approve Pluspetrol's EIA following favorable opinions from other state institutions such as MINCU, the National Water Authority and, because the buffer zone of a national park is involved, the National Service for Protected Natural Areas (SERNANP).
But MINCU's initial report, dated July 2013, effectively made it impossible for the operations to go ahead, stating that the impacts on the health of the reserve's inhabitants could be severe, and warning that the Nahua could be "devastated" and the Kirineri and the Nanti made "extinct."
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Manu National Park image via Shutterstock.