Walk with Us: Natural Wonder of the World Destroyed By Oil Contamination

Walk with us. In rubber boots, in worn-out sandals, or barefoot.

About one thousand Kukama Kukamilla people of the Marañon river basin, among them grandfathers and mothers with little children, walked over one hundred kilometers this weekend from the city of Nauta to Iquitos: the political center of the Loreto region.

The leader of the Kukama organization, ACODECOSPAT, Alfonso Lopez, asked the people of the world today: “What are we doing? Why do we allow this? Or do we really want to hand over a totally destroyed Wonder of the World to our children and grandchildren?”, referring to the recognition of the Amazon as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

The movement gathers steam on the roadIn this Caminata Wika Ritama – the Long Walk of Sacrifice – they marched hand in hand with Quechas from the Pastaza; Kichwas from the Tigre; Achuar from the Corrientes; with indigenous students from all over Loreto; and with leaders from the urban social movements.

They are desperate to find immediate solutions for the humanitarian crisis in their homelands and eager to taste the environmental and social justice they deserve after more than 40 years of oil contamination. Standing in the blistering, tropical sunshine on boiling hot asphalt for more than two days, the Kukama people only ask for the right to lead decent and healthy lives.

Their territory in the Marañon river basin is home to an impressive biodiversity and harbors the treasured Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peru’s largest protected area. Hence, Peruvian government was obligated recognize the damages caused to this natural heritage of humanity; and they did so in May 2014 by declaring the river basin in a state of environmental and sanitarian emergency. However, nothing has been done since this declaration to bring relief to the affected populations being poisoned by toxic water.

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International solidarity and pressure on the Peruvian state to meet these challenges with solutions are urgently needed. Alfonso states, “We are fighting to defend our environment, life, and the rivers; to defend the forests which are integral to the indigenous cosmovision; to contribute to the world in the face of climate change. We want cooperation with international organizations supporting the defense of human rights and the environment. You can join in our cause. Together we can hand down to future generations what they deserve.” Watch the video of his call for solidarity here >>

Today the Kukamas arrived at the Plaza 28 of Iquitos. Not surprisingly, there were no government representatives waiting there to welcome them. So, they have decided to stay there until the authorities show up to listen to them.

Meanwhile, the Quechua federation, FEDIQUEP, remains in a state of peaceful mobilization in the native community of Andoas, at heart of Pluspetrol´s oil activities in Loreto, gathered together with over two thousand indigenous people.

On Thursday June 19th, they will welcome a high representatives´ commission to their table of FEDIQUEP in Andoas - Photo credit: PUINAMUDTdialogue. This commission will possibly be headed by President Ollanta Humala himself, and the primary agenda is to heed the call for immediate action and for solutions to be found to address this devastating humanitarian crisis in oil block 1AB.

The first, essential step is for federations’ voices to be heard by the State, and for their initial demands of access to clean water, food and health care to be met. Only then will the Commission for Development of the four river basins be able to begin the process of pursuing holistic reparation measures for the indigenous people who have suffered almost half a century of human rights violations in the Northern Peruvian Amazon.

Sarah Kerremans, Wednesday, 18 June 2014

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