Peruvian village sees pollution, few benefits from gas pipeline project

By Oxfam America

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Name

Shivankoreni, Lower Urubamba, Peru

Description of community

The small Machiguenga village of Shivankoreni is located within the Lower Urubamba region of eastern Peru, a remote forested area extremely rich in biodiversity. The village lies within the heart of the Camisea project zone, an area being exploited for the wealth of natural gas contained beneath the forest floor. Several other groups of indigenous peoples—both contacted and living in "voluntary isolation" within a state-protected reserve—also inhabit the fragile ecosystems of the project zone. Since the launch of the Camisea project in 2002, indigenous communities have raised growing concerns regarding project impacts to Peruvian authorities, companies (particularly Argentina's Pluspetrol, which leads the upstream consortium), and project financers such as the Inter-American Development Bank.

How the community has responded

Unfortunately, to date Camisea project activities have presented several threats to the cultural and biological diversity of the Lower Urubamba. For example, five spills have occurred in the gas liquids pipeline, with serious health and conservation repercussions for local communities. According to Marianella Mata, a Shivankoreni resident, "Since the December 22, 2004 spill we've had very few fish to catch. We've been greatly affected—everything has changed since the spill." Increased boat traffic on the river also contributes to loss of fish, and represents a potential threat to community safety when not managed properly.

Community members have also expressed frustration with other challenges associated with the project:

  • Inadequate government support for consultation and dialogue
  • Lack of technical capacity in local government to ensure that spending of municipal revenues is in line with community priorities
  • Inadequate compensation for areas cleared to make way for seismic exploring
  • Company noncompliance with commitments to local development projects, such as the construction of a bridge between Shivankoreni and Camisea to help community children attend school
  • Disturbance of fauna due to helicopter noise, making subsistence hunting more difficult and time consuming.

Shivankoreni community members have been assertive in making their voices heard in response to these challenges. The community twice demanded a delay in consultation on environmental assessments for the project because they did not have adequate assistance, and sought support from an Oxfam America partner organization, CEDIA, in order to more effectively navigate negotiations with Pluspetrol. To call attention to the need for improved government support in dealings with the company, Shivankoreni and two other affected communities issued a declaration demanding that Defensoria del Proyecto Camisea (a body sponsored by the company to address community grievances) be deactivated and that an improved mechanism for community participation and consultation be developed.

Company response

After a delegation visit by Oxfam America and other groups, Shivankoreni community leaders successfully convinced Pluspetrol to restrict helicopter overflights in order to reduce fauna disturbance. However, much more needs to be done to promote transparency and prevent future environmental degradation in local communities like Shivankoreni. The second phase of the project, entitled "Camisea II" or "Peru LNG," includes expansion of the gas fields and construction of a new pipeline and a gas export plant on the coast. As in the past, Oxfam America will continue to support local community efforts to ensure the responsiveness of government authorities and company leadership to their concerns.