Oil, hydro development plans generate conflict in Amazon’s divided Pastaza basin

Quechua indigenous leaders in on the Peruvian side of the Pastaza river basin, which is divided between Peru and Ecuador, reached an accord with the government last week for a survey to be conducted of health and environmental impacts of oil development in the area, where indigenous peoples have been opposing leases by the Argentine company PlusPetrol. Aurelio Chino Dahua, president of the Quechua Indigenous Federation of Pastaza (FEDIQUEP), said the organizaiton would meet again on July 12 to work out details with the regional government of Loreto. (TruthOut, June 9; Erbol, June 1) Just days earlier, however, Ramiro Cazar, Ecuador’s sub-secretary of Hydrocarbons (a division of the Natural Resources Ministry), announced that Quito and Lima are studying a joint project to export oil from the Ecuadoran side of the basin to the Pacific through Peru’s pipeline from the northern Amazon over the Andes. Cazar said a “commission to evaluate the project” had been formed. (AP, May 24)

Meanwhile, the Ecuadoran side of the basin has seen angry protests over a new hydro-electric project planned by the government on the Río Negro, a tributary of the Pastaza. Local residents have been divided by the lure of economic development and fear of environmental degradation from the planned hydro-dam. June 17 saw clashes at El Topo, a small community in Baños municipality (Tungurahua province), between residents in favor and opposed to the project. (Diario Los Andes, Ecuador, June 17)

The Ecuadoran Pastaza basin has been the scene in recent years of violent conflict between indigenous peoples and illegal settlers on their lands. The Peruvian side of the basin has been severely degraded by the operations of Occidental Petroleum. Occidental sold its Peruvian holdings to PlusPetrol in 2000. PlusPetrol sparked protests last year when it was responsible for a massive oil spill on the Río Marañon, into which the Pastaza drains.

See our last posts on the Amazon and regional struggles for control of water in Peru and Ecuador.

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