Lydia Vargas Doñe is a 43 year old mother of five children. She has called the Nanay River in the Peruvian Amazon ‘home’ her entire life. The Nanay is one of the last untouched watersheds by industrial development in the Peruvian Amazon. Its endemic biodiversity gained it “protected area” status by the Peruvian government in 2008.
However, this same government has opened up Lidia’s home to oil development, without the consent of the people who live there.
But Lidia and her neighbors are not giving up without a fight.
Since 2010, Lidia and the Iquitos Water Committee, a group of concerned citizens, students, indigenous people and social organizations, have fought to keep the Nanay River Basin a protected area.
Why do they fight? Because they have seen the devastation oil development has brought across the Peruvian Amazon – with two environmental emergencies called this year alone for oil contamination levels exceeding 382 times water quality standards.
For Lidia and the people of the Nanay, this is a matter of life and death.
And their struggle has not been in vain. In 2012, they had a huge win when oil giant, Conoco Phillips, pulled out of the area after a year and a half of citizen protests and grassroots organizing.
Unfortunately, Conoco Phillips simply sold its shares to another oil company, Gran Tierra Energy, who do not seem as interested in public opinion, nor do the local and national governments who are profiting from the deal.
The oil exploration Gran Tierra and its predecessor have already done is a process highly destructive in and of itself, involving the clear cutting of hundreds of hectares of forest and detonating thousands of explosives. Now, Gran Tierra is just waiting for the green light from the Peruvian government to construct more than a dozen massive platforms and dig some 48 exploratory wells in this delicate rainforest region.
Friday, 04 October 2013