By Darrin Mortenson / Alianza Arkana
Even as indigenous people struggle to cope with current levels of contamination and illness caused by years of oil production in the Amazon, the governments of Peru and Ecuador are preparing to sell off even more Amazonian territory to the oil industry in coming months.
Starting in November, Peru’s state-run leasing agency Petroperu plans to start auctioning licenses to 36 new oil blocks for exploration, 19 of them in the northern region of Loreto. Just across the border, Ecuador is set to lease at least 13 blocks on or near waterways that eventually flow south into Peru and join the Amazon River.
Many of the blocks overlap or abut protected areas and indigenous territories and threaten the forests and rivers that indigenous people and other river people depend on for their lives.
Indigenous groups are rallying to stop their governments’ plans, and some talk of making a stand for a total moratorium on all exploration until both countries come up with a regional environmental plan.
“Oil production is an activity that definitely alters our territory, our environment, our health and our culture,” said Alfonso Lopez Tejada, leader of the federation of 57 indigenous Kukama communities along the Maranon river region in Peru, where three new lots overlap Kukama communities and threaten the famous Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
“Again they impose these lots on us just as they did not consult us when they leased our territories before,” Lopez said.
In Ecuador, indigenous groups are planning demonstrations and marches to protest the new round of concessions begin on November 28.
“We are defending our land. We won’t allow oil activity,” said Franco Viteri, president of a Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorean Amazon (Confeniae), according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
Ecuadorian indigenous leaders say they will make an appeal to the country’s Constitutional Court.