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The Peruvian Amazon Environmental Issues

There are two principle environmental issues facing the Peruvian jungle: oil exploration and deforestation. Although they are not mutually exclusive, they impact the jungle separately to a large degree.

In the past few years, there have been some scary developments for the future of Peru’s jungle and its inhabitants. As late as 2005, only 20 percent of Peru’s Amazon had been handed over to oil and natural gas companies for exploration. However, the current percentage is hovering around 70 percent. This figure represents about 97 million acres, an area larger than Italy or Japan.

What caused the change? One not-so-coincidental development has been an investment made by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Perupetro, the state-owned oil company, to push the development and marketing of Peru’s oil concessions.

The Peruvian Amazon has been under siege by both foreign and national oil companies for decades. However, it appears production (and subsequent environmental devastation) will be ramped up in the coming years. Despite agreements between the Peruvian government and indigenous groups protecting areas inhabited by Peru’s indigenous population, some of which live in complete isolation from other groups, Perupetro is offering up oil and natural gas concessions to bidding by foreign companies.

The other major environmental threat to the Peruvian jungle is deforestation. One of the principle casualties of the oil exploration in the Peruvian rainforest is the trees. However, agriculture, cattle farming, mining and other resource-extraction activities contribute to the decimation of the rainforest as well.

Illegal logging presents many of the same issues as oil extraction. Many indigenous communities are being displaced from their traditional hunting and fishing grounds, being ruined through uncontrolled, reckless logging. Although logging does not pollute with the same intensity as oil extraction, the activity itself is illegal and, therefore, there isn’t any consideration for environmental issues or regulations.

Although inhabitants of the effected areas are employed by the companies carrying out the extraction, little money (if any) remains in the communities after the resources have been carted away to their foreign destination.

There has been significant protest by the indigenous inhabitants of the areas at risk (especially those being auctioned for oil exploration). In February 2007, when Perupetro attended an industry trade-show in Houston, Texas, it was met by multiple indigenous groups who had also made the trip. These groups have joined with the international community seeking to protect not only Peru’s rainforest but endangered forests around the world. Also, there is talk that due to previous protests and occupations of oil concessions, First World companies are hesitant to make large investments in the jungle of South America.

09 Mar 2012

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