On Tuesday, May 8, members of a wide spectrum of Iquitos’ civil groups plan to march through the gates of the Loreto Regional Government headquarters to demand that that Regional President Iván Vásquez explain his position and open the books on oil exploration activities by U.S. energy giant ConocoPhillips near the headwaters of the Rio Nanay.
The march was called for by the grassroots Committee in Defense of Water, whose organizers hope it will demonstrate the breadth and momentum of the movement to stop oil drilling in this delicate section of the Peru’s Amazon forest.
The Nanay supplies more than 90 percent of Iquitos’ drinking water, the Committee says ConocoPhillips’s recent seismic projects and imminent drilling of some 18 exploratory wells and construction of six massive platforms in Block 129 threatens the environment as well as all of Iquitos’ half million residents. The Committee was formed after Iquitos residents mobilized against ConocoPhillips on Feb. 1 after some of the company’s plans were first made public.
Representing teachers, students, women, public sector employees, environmentalists and others, including some major players in Peruvian progressive politics, organizers say the Regional Government has betrayed its stated commitment to protect the important ecoregion from industrial destruction.
The march and the issue of oil production the Nanay watershed have garnered headlines in recent days, and organizers of the march have appeared on numerous television and radio programs.
In their recent “Declaration of Iquitos” organizers cite a 2003 Regional Ordinance declaring the Nanay watershed as a “zone of exclusion” for mining activities and other activities that would alter forest cover.
They also cite the government’s declaration in 2008 that it was in the “public interest” that the headwaters of the Nanay, Mazan and Arabela watersheds are protected.
That same government decree promoted the establishment of a Regional Area of Conservation for Upper Nanay, Pintuyacu and Chambira rivers, “with one of its objectives being to conserve the hydrological resources originating in the birthplaces of the Nanay, Pintuyacu and Chambira rivers in order to assure the quality and supply of water and other environmental services to benefit the local populations and the city of Iquitos, through the application of integrated watershed management.”
The marchers say they want Regional President Vasquez to answer publically how the government can now promote and protect oil drilling activities in a region it has pledged to protect in the public interest. They also demand that all documents regarding ConocoPhillips’ activities be immediately made public, according to Peruvian law.
Addressed “To the people of Iquitos, Loreto, the Amazon and Peru,” the Declaration of Iquitos justifies the formation of the Committee in Defense of Water as an act of civic self-defense based on the devastating impacts of 40-years of oil activities in Blocks 1-AB and 8 in Loreto, “which has been described by experts as the worst environmental tragedy of the Peruvian Amazon.”
First Occidental Petroleum, and today PLUSPETROL NORTE, “have caused grave impacts on the territory, environment, lives, health and social processes of the indigenous peoples and forest dwellers of the Pastaza, Tigre, Corrientes, and Maranon watersheds, and those residing in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve,” the declaration says.
“[T]he Regional Government of Loreto has demonstrated total incoherence regarding environmental issues,” the Committee says in its declaration. “[O]n the one hand it has promoted the Amazon River as a ‘wonder of the world,’ yet paradoxically has not done anything to confront the environmental situation in the areas that have been impacted and contaminated by oil extraction. This situation has historical precedent, given that since the 90s one of the principal threats to the water supply for the city of Iquitos was identified as mining, warning against dredges for gold exploration and extraction in the Nanay watershed.”
Along with the demand that Regional President Ivan Vasquez answer these and other concerns in a public forum, the groups calls upon native communities of the region to demand their right to be consulted; colonial settlers, market workers, professional schools, and universities to carry out sector-based forums and informative workshops about the risks of oil activities on the Nanay; and for the media to cover such events and inform the public.
“To peacefully mobilize in defense of water and life is a right for all,” the group says.
Monday, 07 May 2012