Alarming Levels of Lead and Mercury Found in the Nanay – one of the Last “Untouched” Watersheds by Oil Exploitation in the Peruvian Amazon

After three years of sustained efforts in defending their water source from oil companies, members of the Iquitos Water Committee (IWC) learned last Friday that the Nanay River, the source of drinking water for 90% of the city of Iquitos, and as such over half a million people, exceeds Peruvian environmental quality standards for levels of mercury and lead. Once thought to be one of the last remaining pristine watersheds in the Peruvian Amazon, it seems that now even the Nanay has fallen victim to industry.

Possible causes of this contamination, according to the IWC, may be dredge mining that has taken place illegally in the area, while others speculate the impacts that seismic testing may have caused, carried out in the Nanay basin by an oil company in 2011 and 2012.

The results of these tests, announced by the Peruvian National Water Authority (ANA) nearly one year after water samples were taken, have added fuel to the Water Committee’s fire in their efforts to protect the Nanay. Over the last three years they have engaged in protests, advocacy and citizen education to stop oil companies from drilling in this important biodiversity corridor, which overlaps with oil lots 123 and 129. With little to no help from the government, whose policies cater to these corporations, the IWC was successful in fueling the retreat of oil giant, Conoco Phillips. Now, they have their sights set on a new company, Gran Tierra, who has since taken over the oil concessions from ConocoPhillips, and is just waiting for the green light to begin drilling.

In the wake of these alarming results, not to mention the last three declarations of environmental emergencies in the Peruvian Amazon due to oil contamination**, it is even more important to ensure that industrial activity be OFF LIMITS in the Nanay River Basin, essential for its endemic biodiversity and importance in providing drinking water to over half a million people.

The IWC has drafted an international petition, calling for a moratorium on industrial activity in the Nanay. Be a part of the solution and join the Water Committee as they demand action and accountability from the Peruvian government and say NO to oil in the Nanay!

Deborah Rivett, Wednesday, 20 November 2013