Documents leaked to the The Guardian reveal secret plans of harvesting gas reserves located deep in the Peruvian Amazon. This is no surprise, as fossil fuel companies have made attempts to penetrate this pristine wilderness for years. The real shocker is that this particular chunk of jungle is located inside Manú national park, an area protected by the Peruvian government and home to indigenous people who have no regular contact with the outside world.
Tempted by Big Gas’ money and likely intimidated by their political bullying, rumors are already circling that the Peruvian government will surrender by a gas concession bordering or including parts of the park. If successful, it will mean chaos for a region where Unesco says biodiversity ‘exceeds that of any other place on Earth,’ and almost certain death for the tribes that have lived within it for centuries.
The leaked document is titled Research Plan for Geological Exploration and Surface Geochemistry in the Manú National Park and its Buffer Zone. According to The Guardian, it was written by Lima-based consultancy Quartz Services for company Pluspetrol, which operates an existing gas concession in the region, Lot 88, known as the Camisea project.
“It’s shocking. This is the first time we’ve seen evidence for plans to expand hydrocarbon activities into Manú,” said anthropologist Daniel Rodriguez, who has worked with Peruvian indigenous federation Fenamad for years.
So why should we care about the fate of this Peruvian park? After all, fossil fuel companies have been operating in and around protected lands for decades. Well, aside from the fact that National Parks are formed specifically to prevent these types of invasions, it’s the threat of what we could lose if Pluspetrol is allowed to pillage this untouched area.
Despite the high diversity of plant species in this region, the flora of Manú is still poorly known. In the last 10 years, 1,147 plant species have been identified in the park within quite a small area, and it is likely that the number of species to be found within the park is well over this figure. Who knows, the cure for a deadly disease could be lurking in there, but we’ll never know because it’ll be trampled by bulldozers and drilling crews before we discover it.
And that’s only the plants. The park is inhabited by at least four different native groups: the Machiguenga, the Mascho-Piro, the Yaminahua and the Amahuaca. Very little is known about the Amahuaca and Yaminahua distribution and their numbers are relatively small. What are the odds that Pluspetrol is going to ask their permission before effectively poisoning lands that have been their home for generations?
One anthropologist told the Guardian under condition of anonymity that Quartz’s plans, if put into practice, would seriously endanger people in Manú.
“It says it will do ‘a direct study of human cultures’, but doesn’t say who exactly that would involve,” said the anthropologist. “Even settled communities in Manú contacted 50 years ago remain extremely vulnerable to any kind of illness.”
Pluspetrol refused to comment. Surprise, surprise.
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