The Amazon
Madre de Dios

Mine ponds amplify mercury risks in Peru’s Amazon

The proliferation of pits and ponds created in recent years by miners dredging for small deposits of alluvial gold in Peru’s Amazon has dramatically altered the landscape and increased the risk of mercury exposure for indigenous communities and wildlife, a new study shows. The study¬†found a 670% increase in the extent of ponds across the landscape in heavily mined watersheds since 1985. These formerly forested landscapes are now dotted by these small lakes, which provide low-oxygen conditions in which submerged mercury‚ÄĒa toxic leftover from the mining process‚ÄĒcan be converted by microbial activity into an even more toxic form of the element, called methylmercury. The miners use mercury, a potent neurotoxin, to separate ore from soil and sediments, often without adequate safety precautions. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is believed to be the largest global source of anthropogenic mercury emissions. (Photo via¬†EurekaAlert!)

The Amazon
amazon

Brazil carbon emissions rise as Amazon burns

Brazil’s carbon emissions surged last year due to rising deforestation in the Amazon, jeopardizing the country’s commitments under the Paris climate accord, an environmental group warns in a new study. Brazil spewed a total of 2.17 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2019, an increase of 9.6% over 2018, according to the Brazilian Climate Observatory. That coincided with the first year in office for President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic who has presided over a sharp increase in forest-clearing and wildfires in the Amazon. (Image via Veganist)

The Amazon
santacruz

Protests break out in Bolivia’s Oriente

In Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, known as Oriente, the regionally powerful right-wing social networks have responded rapidly to the victory of socialist candidate Luis Arce in the presidential elections. Thousands filled the streets of the region’s principal city, Santa Cruz, waving Bolivian flags, honking car horns and chanting “¬°Anulaci√≥n, Anulaci√≥n, Anulaci√≥n!”However, the protesters’¬†accusation¬†of “fraud” was explicitly rejected by Manuel Gonz√°lez, head of the OAS mission in Bolivia. He said in a statement: “The people voted freely and the result was clear and overwhelming, which gives great legitimacy to the incoming government, the Bolivian institutions, and the electoral process.” (Photo: Nuevo Sur Bolivia)

The Amazon
peru oil spill

Hundreds of oil spills in Peru rainforest since 2000

Peru’s National Coordinator for Human Rights (CNDDHH) and Oxfam Peru have issued a report finding that there have been hundreds of oil spills linked to the NorPeruano Pipelineover the past 20 years. Entitled “La Sombra del Petr√≥leo” (“The Shadow of Oil“), the report counted 474 oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon between 2000 and 2019, impacting at least 41 indigenous communities. These spills occurred along the NorPeruano Pipeline and in several associated oil blocs. The report also determined that 65% of these spills were caused by the corrosion of the pipeline and operational failures. “After every spill, it was said that the responsibility was with the indigenous communities, but there was no evidence that this was the case,” said Miguel L√©vano, coordinator of a CNDDHH subcommittee on oil spills. “It did not make sense, since they are the people being affected.”¬†(Image via Oxfam Peru)

The Amazon
yanomami

Amazon indigenous concerns grow over COVID-19

Four months after COVID-19 was first suspected of spreading to indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghereyesus, said at a press conference that the WHO is “deeply concerned” by the pandemic’s impact on native populations. He singled out the recently contacted Nahua people in Peru, six of whom have caught the virus. The OAS has also called on Brazil to protect the Yanomami people, who may have been infected by government health workers. Poverty, malnutrition, and the prevalence of communicable diseases put indigenous people at greater risk from coronavirus. (Photo: Mongabay)

The Amazon
Manuin

Peru: Bagua survivor succumbs to COVID-19

A revered leader of Peru’s Awaj√ļn indigenous people, Santiago Manuin Valera, 63, died¬†of COVID-19 at a hospital in the coastal city of Chiclayo. Head apu (traditional chief) of Santa Mar√≠a de Nieva in Amazonas region, Manuin¬†was gravely wounded in the Bagua massacre of June 2009, when National Police opened fire on indigenous protesters. Hit with eight bullets, he was left for dead. Against all expectations, he recovered‚ÄĒalthough he had to use crutches or a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He continued to be an outspoken advocate for the territorial rights of the Awaj√ļn and other indigenous peoples of rainforest.¬†His daughter, Luz Ang√©lica Manuin, warned of a dire situation in the Awaj√ļn communities and across the Peruvian Amazon, with COVID-19 taking a grave toll. “There are many dead,” she said. “We keep vigil over them and we bury them. The government has forgotten us.” (Photo: Andina)

The Amazon
TIPNIS

Bolivia: IACHR to hear TIPNIS case

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) formally agreed to hear a complaint filed by 64 indigenous communities in Bolivia’s eastern rainforest, accusing the Bolivian state of violating their territorial rights under the administration of ousted president Evo Morales. The complaint charges that Bolivian authorities undertook to build a highway through the Isiboro-S√©cure National Park & Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) without consulting or obtaining the consent of indigenous inhabitants. It also alleges that the government illegally used force to break up the cross-country “VIII Indigenous March” that was called to protest the road construction in 2011.¬†(Photo via Bolivia Diary)

Planet Watch
landgrab

Destruction of nature linked to new pandemics

Leaders from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined to issue a stark warning that pandemics such as COVID-19 are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by human activity. In an op-ed published by The Guardian, top figures from each organization state that the destruction of forests and other habitats, coupled with trafficking in wildlife, is causing a growing number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts. In a call to action ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, the three representatives cite prior examples of environmental destruction that triggered new virus outbreaks in humans. (Photo: Schadomski/DW, used with permission)

The Amazon
Amazon deaths

COVID-19: Amazon indigenous groups fear the worst

Indigenous leaders are warning that a combination of neglect, inadequate preparations, and a lack of lockdown measures is exposing remote and vulnerable communities in the Amazon to potentially devastating outbreaks of COVID-19. The major Amazon River ports of Manaus and Iquitos are among the hardest hit cities in South America, and deaths are already reported from indigenous communities deep in the rainforest, where health services are virtually non-existent. Communities already threatened by wildfires and illegal logging could be pushed to the brink in the coming months. (Photo: InfoRegión)

The Amazon
uncontacted

COVID-19 threatens Amazonian peoples

As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, with more than 200 deaths already reported in Brazil, an evangelical Christian organization has purchased a helicopter with plans to contact and convert isolated indigenous groups in the remote Western Amazon. Ethnos360, formerly known as the New Tribes Mission, is notorious for past attempts to contact and convert isolated peoples, having spread disease among the Zo‚Äô√© living in northern Par√° state. Once contacted in the 1980s, the Zo‚Äô√©, lacking resistance, began dying from malaria and influenza, losing over a third of their population. Ethnos360 is planning its conversion mission despite the fact that FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, has a longstanding policy against contact with isolated groups. The so-called “missionary aviation” contact plan may also violate Brazil’s 1988 constitution and international treaties. (Photo: “Uncontacted” tribe in Acre state photographed from FUNAI helicopter in 2011. Via Mongabay.)

The Amazon
Bagua defendants

Peru: high court upholds acquittal of Bagua defendants

More than 10 years after the Bagua massacre in the Peruvian Amazon, sparked when National Police troops attacked a roadblock by indigenous protesters, a magistrate at the penal chamber of Peru’s Supreme Court of Justice absolved 53 of the protesters, who had faced criminal charges. A lower court had cleared the accused protesters, all indigenous Amazonians, in September 2016. Last year, the high court confirmed this ruling on charges of homicide, assault and theft of police firearms. But charges of riot, disruption of public services and illegal firearm possession remained outstanding until this second decision. Peru’s Legal Defense Institute, which represented the defendants, also called on the high court to review the light sentences given to six National Police officers, including three generals, who were convicted by a police tribunal in relation to the massacre but are now all free. (Photo: IDL)

The Amazon
Sierra del Divisor

Court bars oil exploitation in Peru’s Sierra del Divisor

A court in Peru’s Loreto region¬†issued an order blocking all oil exploration or exploitation within a vast area of the Amazon rainforest along the Brazilian border, citing the presence of isolated or “uncontacted” peoples in the zone and the impossibility of obtaining their “prior consultation.” The order affects three oil blocs within Sierra del Divisor National Park. The case was brought in 2017 by the Regional Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Oriente (ORPIO), challenging the move by state agency PeruPetro to auction leases for the blocs. (Photo: Mongabay)