‘Many, many people died. People dying everywhere like fish after a stream has been poisoned. People left to rot along stream banks, in the woods, in their houses.’ These were the words of a Nahua man who survived the oil explorations carried out by the oil company Shell in the 1980’s. These explorations took place in Peru’s Amazon rainforest causing almost half of the Nahua tribe to be wiped out. Once again, Peru has chosen to ignore the United Nations and International human rights organisations to halt the expansion of a deadly gas project also known as the Camisea. So what exactly is the Camisea gas project? It is in fact Peru’s largest hydrocarbons development, run by Argentina’s Pluspetrol, Spain’s Repsol and US’s Hunt oil companies. Thousands of explosive charges will be detonated along with the drilling of wells in the Nahua-Nanti Reserve which is approximately 100 km from Machu Picchu.
However, the major issue behind this whole development is regarding the uncontacted Indians whose indigenous people rights will be violated. These isolated tribes have had no contact with the outside world; either by choice or circumstances therefore they have had no significant contact with globalized civilization. Whilst international law recognises the land as the indigenous peoples with their right to determine how to live on it, the Peruvian government and international companies have disregarded this law by invading the tribal land. These lost tribes now face threats to their land, livelihoods and possible extinction due to disease. According to the development agency Survival International, following first contact it is common for more than 50% of a tribe to die.
With more than 70% of Peru’s Amazon being leased out to oil companies; the majority of these regions are inhabited by uncontacted tribes. These isolated Indians are nomads vulnerable to loggers who invade their territory making contact almost inevitable. Many deaths occur because of colds, flu and respiratory infections due to their lack of immunity to diseases. It seems absurd for Peru’s biggest gas project being allowed to operate at the expense of indigenous lives. Is it the pressure of International companies or then pure ignorance? Looks like Peru has not learnt much from its disgraceful history of contact. These poor tribes are the true victims of a globalised world with oil firms and the Peruvian government remaining unprincipled champions.
Below is a link to a short, interesting video by Oxfam which covers the whole story of the Camisea Gas Project and its effects to the indigenous communities.