Peru: suit launched to stop Camisea expansion

Peru's Amazonian organizations AIDESEP, FENAMAD, ORAU and COMARU last week announced plans to sue both the government and oil companies over proposals to expand the huge Camisea gas project into land inhabited by "uncontacted" or isolated tribes. A consortium of companies in charge of the bloc—including Hunt Oil of Texas, Spain's Repsol and Argentina's Pluspetrol—plans to cut hundreds of testing tracks through the forest, detonate thousands of explosive charges, and drill exploratory wells. Some 75% of Block 88 lies inside the Nahua-Nanti Territorial Reserve, created to protect uncontacted and isolated peoples who are extremely vulnerable to disease and development projects on their land.

A 2003 Supreme Decree (DS 028-2003-AG) stated unequivocally, "the granting of new rights involving the exploitation of natural resources [in the reserve] is prohibited." The decree was one of several conditions set by the Inter-American Development Bank before it loaned Peru funds to build the Camisea project. In a statement, the indigenous organizations said that any further exploratory work would lead to the "extinction" of the tribes living there: "The Peruvian government's extractive policies prioritize money over the lives of indigenous peoples… For this reason…we have decided to sue the State and oil companies…to win the protection of isolated indigenous peoples from the destruction of their environments, and from their extinction." (Survival International, Dec. 17; AIDESEP, Dec. 10)