Environmental State of Emergency for Peru’s Amazon Jungle Region

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Peru rainforest

A remote section of the Amazon jungle in Peru has been contaminated by oil fields operated by Argentina-based oil company Pluspetrol, according to the Peruvian government, who in turn, has has declared an environmental state of emergency by Peru’s Environment Ministry.

The oil fields are the most productive ones in the country and have been allegedly damaging the jungle for years and complaints have been made by indigenous groups near the border of Ecuador in the Pastaza River regarding the pollution. And while these groups have complained for years about the Peruvian government’s lack of action, government authorities have revealed that pollution was never addressed since the nation hasn’t had the quality standards to look into the matter.

For the past 12 years, the oil fields have been operated by Pluspetrol and prior to that starting from 1971, Occidental Petroleum, revealed Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal. In 2010, an investigative weekly, “Hildebrand en sus Trece”, reported that there were 78 oil spills that Pluspetrol was responsible for from the years of 2006 to 2010 that were potentially responsible for birth defects and spontaneous abortions.

The Environment Ministry of Peru declared a state of emergency, according to the Associated Press, due to the high levels of lead, barium, chromium, and other petroleum-related compounds in the region—which is the habitat for the Quichua and Ashuar people.

As a result, the ministry has fined Pluspetrol with $11 million and has placed a 90-day emergency order calling for immediate action to ensure that contamination is kept at bay.

“We know that there has been bad environmental behavior by the company,” said Pulgar-Vidal of Pluspetrol in a radio interview, according to the Associated Press. “If indeed at some point remediation was done, it was not done adequately and that includes inadequate action by the authorities from 2003-2005.”

The president of the Quichua Federation of Pastaza, Sixto Shapiama, has shared that the state of emergency is  “a great achievement because for many years, decades, the government never wanted to see the reality” and that the “constant (oil spills) have caused “the sediment at the bottom of the river is completely contaminated.”

Photo by Ivan Mlinaric

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Susmita is a freelance writer and editor in the Greater New York City area with her own blog on natural beauty (Cherry Stained Lips). In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.