Peru declares Amazon oil contamination emergency

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 25, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: March 25, 2013
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The area has for decades seen "constant (oil) spills," said Shapiama from the regional capital of Iquitos, adding that "the sediment at the bottom of the river is completely contaminated."

The Peruvian TV news magazine Panorama showed Reps. Marisol Perez Tello and Veronika Mendoza visiting crude-permeated rivers in the area as well as the deteriorating oil pipeline that pumps crude to the Pacific coast.

"The government is to blame because it has permitted this," Perez said Monday.

It published on Monday, for the first time, environmental quality standards setting acceptable limits for contaminants in soil. Peru didn't have an environment ministry until 2008 and the mining and energy ministry remains in charge of approving environmental impact statement for the extractive industries.

The investigative weekly "Hildebrand en sus Trece" reported in 2010 that Pluspetrol had 78 oil spills in the region from 2006-2010, and Shapiama blamed the spills for ailments including birth defects and spontaneous abortions.

A British religious activist who has worked with the affected indigenous populations, Paul McAuley, told The Associated Press in 2010 that he was astounded word of the contamination had hardly spread outside the jungle.

He said not just the Pastaza, but two other river basins where Pluspetrol has oil fields, are contaminated: The Corrientes and the Tigre. All are tributaries of the Amazon.

McAuley, a lay activist with the La Salle Christian Brothers, founded the Loreto Environmental Network in 2004 to support the indigenous groups in their struggle to end the pollution.

In 2010, Peru's government tried to expel McAuley, alleging he was inciting unrest among the indigenous.

His expulsion, challenged by the Roman Catholic Church and groups including Amnesty International, was eventually halted by a judge.

Alan Garcia, as president from 2006-2011, opened up the Amazon to mining and oil exploration and drilling. Current President Ollanta Humala has faced a backlash in the form of growing protests.

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Frank Bajak on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fbajak



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