Shipibo Suffer From Oil Slicks

I recently read a story on Fox News extolling the miraculous properties of the Amazonian fruit huito, used by the Shipibo people along Peru’s Ucayali River to die their hair a lustrous, youthful-looking black.

“A Natural Way to Die Your Hair,” the headline read.

What I couldn’t help thinking while reading the article, however, was how huito isn’t the only substance producing a black sheen along the Ucayali River and its associated waterways these days.

Crude oil has been leaving its own dark stain.

More specifically, it’s been crude oil spilled by the Irish-owned sub-driller Maple Energy, endangering Shipibo communities throughout the region.

Maple continues to spill crude into the Ucayali and its tributaries with such frequency that apologies are disingenuous and cynical without matching remediation, prohibitive penalties and guarantees of protection. Maple has contaminated the river and endangered residents with at least six significant spills since 2009 alone, most recently on July 10, 2011, near the Shipibo village of Nuevo Sucre.

Around the same time, as the spills killed fish, soaked into wetlands and poisoned the waters the Shipibo use to drink, bathe and cook, Maple executives boasted in August that their corporate revenues had jumped by 16% to $40.7 million.

“Maple has denied the problems with contamination and sickness resulting from their operations on our land and refused our requests for environmental remediation and medical treatment,” Nuevo Sucre leader Raul Tuesta said in a recent statement.

Alianza Arkana stands in solidarity with the people of Nuevo Sucre and other Shipibo villages along the Ucayali region who have suffered the willful negligence of Maple, and we support the efforts of groups such as the San Francisco-based Accountability Counsel , which seeks to hold Maple accountable for its crimes.

So much like other oil and gas companies operating in the Amazon, Maple deceives and dissembles when it claims on its corporate website to be “committed to achieving the highest environmental standards and respect for the communities in the areas in which it operates. This includes performing work with integrity and under safe conditions.”

2011-july-maple-energy-oil-spill-3In the most recent case, “under safe conditions” mean forcing Shipibo villages to collect oil sludge from the river by wading into the contaminants with no special equipment – with bare hands and feet  — according to the Accountability Counsel and other sources.

Deborah Rivett, Saturday, 24 September 2011