Indigenous Communities Protest Yet Another Oil Spill in Loreto

The blue line is the Marañón river, the black line is the Chambira River, and the straight, yellow line is the pipeline.

Thirteen Indigenous Amazonian communities took the No. 9 heliport of the oil company, Pluspetrol as a protest for the oil spill that occurred on the river Chambira on January 19, 2012. These actions respond to the neglect of the national, regional and company that does nothing to solve the problems of health and nutrition that result from oil spills.

The spill occurred in the 2 lines of the oil pipeline that runs from the base of Trompeteros Saramiriza Station. It was determined that the oil affected the Chambira River Basin and the communities of Nuevo San Juan and Ollanta.  The site has been visited by various institutions since the spill, such as the environmental Prosecutor of Loreto. Meanwhile, the police have initiated investigations to determine responsibility.

This is not the first time this has happened in this area. In the absence of official information, it is necessary to use the accounts of the authorities of the Marañón River .  Below is an attempt to approximate the chronology of the oil spills in the last year and a half to indicate the severity of the problem.

  • a) June 19, 2010: Port Tiwinsa, San Jose, Saramuro.
  • b) November 2010: Dock 3, San Jose, Saramuro.
  • c) December 6, 2010: Dock 3, San Jose, Saramuro.
  • d) January 16, 2011: Terminal Yanayacu, San Jose, Saramuro.
  • e) January 2011: Chambira. Possibly a site near the current spill.
  • f) May 2, 2011: Dock 3, San Jose, Saramuro.
  • g) December 28, 2011: San José de Saramuro.
  • h) January 19 2012: two hours from the community of San Juan del Chambira.

Note: Dates are approximate since they respond to when the authorities became aware of the spill. Experience tells us that several days pass between the occurrence and its registration.

Article on June 19 oil spill sourced from Father. P Angel Cadenas and Father P. Manolo Berjon (Catholic Priests living on the river Maranon)Oil_Pipe_in_the_Amazon

At 2:30 pm on January 20, 2012 the community of San Juan del Chambira felt helpless. Half an hour ago previously a boat arrived filled with 30 to 40 people from an oil company. However, in the words of one of the authorities, they [the oil company] have not permitted the community to know the truth about the situation.

In the course of the morning, two helicopters arrived in the community yet they [the oil company] did not offer anything [to help], not even clean drinking water [as the local people drink water from the local river]. The community is outraged. According to the community a lot of oil has been spilled although details of the spill have been left to be confirmed by the authorities…

Throughout the day and night oil was spilled down the river Chambira to the community of San Juan del Chambira. A little further down this opens a Tipishca community where the water then runs very little [where even more problems will be faced as the oil gathers as is not washed away down the river].

A spill can not be predicted but it can be prevented. First, a review of the pipelines is of utmost importance. Second, the communities are not advised when these spills happen, it is they who have to give the alarm. Where is the oil pipeline monitoring system?

Among the demands of the affected communities is the request for water, as their only water souce comes from the now contaminated river, food, and an indemnity of S/.100 million PEN by the company.

Contaminated Water

A spill cannot be predicted but it can be prevented. First, a review of the pipelines is of utmost importance. Second, the communities are not advised when these spills happen, it is they who have to give the alarm. Where is the oil pipeline monitoring system?

Without having been advised of the spill, the community was not able to collect and store water beforehand. Now do they dare just drink water contaminated with oil? The people of Chambira now have no other choice or they wait until the rain comes to wash away the worst of the spill.

The local authorities are very concerned about these issues as the people have no choice but drink the water. What will now probably follow is “spokespeople” claiming to offer the “truth” about this situation; “don’t be alarmed, there is very little spilled, it’s all under control, it was sabotage by locals”, [and the usual disinformation that is common place when oil spills happen here in the Amazon].

Among the demands of the affected communities is the request for water, as their only water souce comes from the now contaminated river, food, and an indemnity of S/.100 million soles by the company.

Support from the State?

Oil_BarrelShould the state tell their citizens from oil spills? Do the public have a right to know the truth about the state of the pipeline? Could it be advantageous for the oil companies to not tell the truth and hide information? These and many more questions are being asked now on the Maranon river. For now, these questions are not being answered; will the day come when the truth is finally told?

Will the State acknowledge the truth? We would like to be given accurate official information. But the official information that comes from the Ministry of Energy and Mines should not be manipulated by the oil companies. [For example] now they are telling us that there were only four barrels where spilt on December 28 although local authorities were cleaning up and collecting oil over three days.

Will official information ever tell the truth? [True] economic growth requires more involvement of the people and participation requires inclusion. We would like to conclude positively but the reality is obvious: when will we see the next oil spill?

By P. Miguel Angel Cadenas y P. Manolo Berjón

First posted Thursday, 26 January 2012

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