Remediation measures include prevention, and that means changing the 40+ year-old pipelines in oil block 8X, situated in the Kukama peoples’ territory and within the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, one of the biggest and most precious wild areas of Peru. Last week the Kukama communities, represented by their federation ACODECOSPAT, held their yearly assembly and the current and upcoming oil exploitation in Kukama territory was one of the main subjects during the debates.
In the beginning of 2014, after more than 2 years of dialogues and investigations with the state, the Maranon River was finally declared to be in a state of environmental and sanitarian emergency due to the very high levels of contaminants found in the soil and water as a result of decades of oil exploitation in the area. Since May 2014 ACODECOSPAT along with three other indigenous federations (FEDIQUEP, FECONACO , FECONAT) participated in the Commission for Development, which is charged, among other things, with finding solutions for the remediation of their territories.
Ricardo Segovia, a scientist of the independent E-Tech International organization, who investigated the area of oil blocks 8x and 192 (ex-oil block 1AB), stated during the assembly: “I believe the most important thing will be to change the pipelines. Because if we are speaking of remediation, even if they do a good job, [oil] spills will continue to occur. If the pipelines are not changed, there will always be more spills. If there is a spill every 3 months, why are we remediating? We will just be chasing our own tails. Water in the humid lowlands is acidic by nature. This acidity can attack the metal of the pipelines. These pipelines are underwater in this acidic water which deteriorates them faster than a pipeline which is elevated and not underwater. And if you change them, and put a new pipeline underwater, it will be the same. It is not just the age of the pipeline [that is a problem], it is also the conditions in which it is found.”
The situation of the Kukama people and of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is alarming. The current operator in oil block 8x, the company Pluspetrol Norte S.A., wants to drill new wells, without prior-consultation, and with no proper environmental impact study. On top of that, in August this year, PERUPETRO, the Peruvian state body that promotes mining and oil concessions, announced the opening of bidding on at least 13 new oil blocks around the Maranon River. Three of these new oil blocks , 193, 173, and 194, were already opened for bids in 2012, and the Kukama’s reacted immediately : they worked out proposals for a Vida Plena (Fullfiling Life) and for the necessary upcoming prior-consultation process, in which they outlined that the conditions for life itself to thrive are non-negotiable. However, no prior-consultation process has been initiated yet. At the assembly last week, Alianza Arkana presented updated information and generated an empowerment and educational workshop on collective property rights, the right to prior-consultation, and the new oil blocks.
The Kukamas are worried. Ander Ordonez Mozombite, environmental monitor of ACODECOSPAT, asked the assembly how the state will manage to do a proper consultation process in only 4 months, if after more than two years of dialogue with the Kukamas, they weren’t even able to solve any of the problems generated by 43 years of oil activity in the area.
on Thursday, 30 October 2014