advocate
ELAW Advocate: Winter 2010

The Future of the Peruvian Amazon

Cordillera Azul National Park

Cordillera Azul National Park includes pristine tropical forests with dramatic rock escarpments, mountain ridges, lowland valleys, high-altitude lakes, and marshlands.  The Peruvian Amazon is the world’s second largest tropical forest, next to the Brazilian rainforest. PHOTO: © William S. Alverson, The Field Museum

ELAW is working with partners in Peru to ensure that “development” of the Amazon does not destroy waterways, the world’s second largest jungle, and the lives of ancient communities.

The dense tropical rainforest of the Peruvian Amazon is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth.  Sadly, dozens of enormous projects – including hydroelectric dams, inter-oceanic roads, mines, and oil and gas development – have been approved by the government of Peru and now threaten ecosystems and the lives of indigenous peoples.

More than half of the Peruvian Amazon has been divided into oil and gas concession blocks, with corresponding licensing contracts.  At least 19 of these blocks include lands of indigenous communities, protected areas, and protected area buffer zones.

"The Environmental Impact Assessment process in Peru’s mining and energy sector is flawed,” says Meche Lu, ELAW Environmental Research Scientist. “Decisions are made based on fragmented and incomplete assessments, without adequate public participation or consultation with the local people.”

The Yine, Shipibo-Conibo, and other communities living near Cordillera Azul National Park have asked for help responding to the arrival of the oil and gas industry. Grassroots advocates at Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (DAR) are working with ELAW to provide the training and resources these communities need. 

“Indigenous communities know more about their rights than people think.  There is a legal framework that protects them and they ask that we respect these laws.”
Maria del Rosario Sevillano
DAR legal specialist

Meche, who hails from Peru, is working closely with DAR to provide information for community workshops in Ucayali and Loreto provinces.  These materials include community guidelines to better participate in decisions about proposed energy projects, best practices for oil industry activities in tropical ecosystems, and the environmental and health impacts of oil and gas development.  DAR is working to create a community-based system to help enforce environmental protection laws.

ELAW partners are sharing examples of best practices from around the world with DAR through ELAW’s international network.  ELAW partners at ECOLEX in Ecuador, for example, have a successful program providing paralegal training to indigenous communities in Ecuador.  ECOLEX staff will travel to Peru soon to collaborate with DAR on paralegal training in Ucayali.

Many thanks to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for making this work possible.

For more information, see: www.dar.org.pe/que_proyectos_macarthur.html