The Peruvian Amazon denounces two-year abandonment of oil spills



The peoples of the Peruvian Amazon feel abandoned and continue to suffer the consequences of oil spills that in 2016 blacked the rivers where they fish and bathe and the lands where they grow cassava, corn and peanuts, the basis of their diet.

"Nobody comes here, no one asks us, how did you get there?", Says a peasant who is sitting on a small jetty, on one of the banks of the Morona River, when he sees a group of journalists from a country not has never heard and whose trip has organized Caritas Española so that they have the possibility of listening to these peasants.

The last stretch of road is more than seven hours across the river. The communities of the Morona district can only be accessed by boats that avoid the trunks that float in the reddish brown waters of this Amazon tributary.

The longest pipeline in Peru passes through their communities, which has been operating since 1974, transporting crude oil from the oil fields in the Peruvian Amazon north, crossing the jungle and the Andes, to the coast of Bayóvar.

The North Peruvian Oil Pipeline - of almost one thousand kilometers - is managed by the state company Petroperú with a high risk to the environment due to the precarious maintenance, according to the report.

A little over two years ago, 22 communities, mostly indigenous (Kukama, Kukamiria, Shawi, Wampis and Awajún) were affected by a dozen oil spills in the pipeline, which had to close for a year and perform tasks of maintenance.

"We continue to fish out of necessity, we do not have any other food, although we know that the river is still contaminated, we are very concerned about health, but nobody does anything, neither the local authorities nor the government." We feel deceived, cheated and run over by our rights "explains Casinaldo Núñez, a farmer from Saramiriza, the town where the road ends.

The villagers are naming leaders and making federations to demand that the authorities and Petroperú fulfill their commitments, such as building a Cartesian well in each community to have drinking water and "fish farms" so as not to have to fish in the areas they claim are still contaminated.

"We lack everything," explains Carlos Luis Paifo, a professor at the school in Puerto America, the largest population in that area, with about 3,000 inhabitants.

In the health center, which covers all the nearby villages, there are few medicines and after the discharges have increased patients with respiratory (bronchitis, asthma), skin and headaches, according to explains the head of the health network, Oto Torres.

The nearest hospital is eight hours by boat (in San Lorenzo) and they say that a few days ago a child with bronchitis died due to not being able to offer him the appropriate treatment.

Half an hour sailing you will reach Tierra Blanca, where eleven families live, the point of origin of another of the spills that spread through the Cashacaño ravine and continued along the Morona and Marañón rivers.

"The water is contaminated, oil continues to fall, when it rains the spots float and we do not have wells to catch the water, they have not built them as they said, we have to drink rain water," says Mercedes Panduro, who is pregnant, while she waits for his other three children arrive from school, which 14 students attend.

It shows lesions on the skin of the legs, the same ones that one of his children has, and he says that they are about to bathe in the river.

"The pollution continues, with the torrential rain the creek grows, begins to stir and leaves," says Professor Nancy Vargas.

Remember that the spill has altered the life of that community, which had to stop fishing, hunting animals have been moved by the felling of trees and crops, affected by pollution.

"It lowered the academic performance of children for the problem of food" and, he adds, the food distributed by Petroperú during the months after the spill was insufficient.

Farmers explain that their crops do not grow as before the spills and that many plants dry up when the river grows.

Church organizations, such as Pastoral de la Tierra and Cáritas, are helping these communities to file lawsuits for the violation of their rights during the exploitation of natural resources by oil companies.

But also to implement more sustainable crops, incorporating the traditional others such as fruit trees and cocoa.

During the tour of these communities, reproaches are expressed towards their authorities for taking advantage of the bewilderment and isolation they suffer. The governor of the province of Datem del Marañón, Rosana Moreno, responds: "the municipality has not closed its eyes to not see reality, but unfortunately at the national level they do not give us an immediate solution".

"They are killing us, the ethnic groups are exterminating us because of the pollution of the oil river", laments the councilor, who confesses that she has lived through this "harsh reality" with the death of a child by leukemia after having been consuming water after waste. "My child has been affected by pollution," he concludes.

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