Peru declares emergency over Amazon oil spill
The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in 16 communities in the Amazonian region of Loreto, where an oil spill has endangered wildlife and indigenous communities. The emergency will be in effect for 60 days and requires officials in the Loreto regional government to co-ordinate response efforts with central agencies. Clean up operations will be funded by the government and Petro-Peru.
The North Peruvian Pipeline first ruptured on January 25th, due to a landslide in the area and severely affected the Chiriaco and Marañon rivers. The spill took three days to clean; however a week later, a second spill occurred in the Datem del Marañon province. Experts assess that the pipelines which were built in the 1970s have been poorly maintained leading to the spill.
Experts state that based on the location of the spill, it could also have affected the Suashapea, Pakunt, Chiriaco, Nuevo Progreso, Nazareth and Nuevo Horizonte indigenous communities, due to their reliance on the Chiriaco and Marañon rivers for water.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said 90 percent of the spillage has been recovered by officials who are engaged in clean up activities. Heavy rains have since overrun the barriers used to keep some of the recovered oil in place. Regional officials have denounced the clean-up operation as inefficient and have said it will take over a year to restore the damage to local wildlife.
Locals reported that Petro-Peru contracted children to clean up the oil spill without any protective gear. Petro-Peru president German Velasquez denied these allegations, but said he was considering firing four company officials, one of whom may have allowed children to collect oil.
More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been leased by the government to oil companies. Most of this land is inhabited by un-contacted indigenous tribes including the Cacataibo, Isconahua, Matsigenka, Mashco-Piro, Mastanahua, Murunahua (or Chitonahua), Nanti and Yora tribes. The construction of pipelines and infrastructure have severely affected the indigenous communities, who have no immunity against modern diseases, resulting in their declining population.
The state-owned Petro-Peru which operates the pipelines has been held responsible for the incident, and the government said it will fine the company. So far, the company has paid about $3.5 million in fines.
A ruptured pipeline has caused two oil spills that are wreaking havoc in the Peruvian Amazon. According to officials, between 2,000 and 3,000 barrels of crude oil has spilled from a pipeline operated by Petro-Peru into the Amazon River. The government has declared a water quality emergency that will last for 90 days. Over 250 workers are engaged in cleaning up the oil spill.