Op-Ed: At the UN climate summit, Peru can't hide a dirty, oily secret

Posted Dec 10, 2014 by Karen Graham
As delegates from countries around the world gather in the final hours to come to an agreement of climate change, little or nothing at all is being said of the government-sanctioned deforestation, and destructive exploitation of natural resources.
For decades  the indigenous people of Peru s Amazon Rainforest have battled the government over oil ...
For decades, the indigenous people of Peru's Amazon Rainforest have battled the government over oil exploitation.
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For decades, the Achuar and other indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon have fought a losing battle with petroleum, logging, palm oil plantations and mining companies over the use of their ancestral lands. And the sad part of this predicament is that the Peruvian government is the guilty party parceling out sections of the Amazon for this destructive exploitation, even though it may be illegal.
Since around June, as Peru finished putting the finishing touches on the climate summit fortress, five separate oil spills in a pipeline going through the Amazon have spewed thick globs of crude oil into streams, swamps and lagoons, killing wildlife and innumerable fishes.
For the indigenous people living along the rivers and streams, the last six months have been filled with fear and illness. On June 30, the first pipeline breach occurred near the village of Cuninico. “I never knew what crude oil was, and then suddenly we saw it floating down the river,” said Melita Bela Celis, who lives in the village of San Pedro, a Kukama Indian community close by.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can cause skin, liver and immune system illnesses. According to the CDC's Barbara Fraser, "Mothers said children and adults in their families are suffering from stomachaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, and small children have skin rashes after bathing in the rivers."
On December 8, a report, "Revealing the Hidden: Indigenous Perspectives on Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon," compiled by Peru's national indigenous peoples' organisation, AIDESEP, and an international human rights organisation, the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) was published. The report was a scathing denouncement of the Peruvian government's attempts to encourage immigration, all to encourage economic integration and agricultural development of the Amazon.
The report bluntly points out: "Our territory and its resources have become a business to hand over to investors and capitalists. The government creates the protected areas ... but the same government then overlaps these areas with mining and oil concessions."
As the host of the climate talks, Peru pledged last week to get off its dependence on oil and generate 60 percent of their electricity from renewable resources, like wind and solar, by 2025. Researchers with the Carnegie Institute for Science did a carbon mapping of Peru's Amazon Rainforest. The results of the study were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in November, 2014.
The Carnegie report substantiated the AIDESEP/FPP report, showing that the government's aggressive exploitation of the Amazon through oil and gas operations was having devastating consequences for the indigenous people and the environment. The research team also pointed out that illegal logging and forest clearance being done by oil companies would act to defeat Peru's efforts at reducing carbon pollution.
It is no wonder that the people of Peru are marching in the streets. The world may think they are marching along with the rest of the globe's climate activists, and they are, but they are also marching in protest of their governments cruel and outright criminal exploitation of the country's most prized resource, the Amazon.