Indigenous Tribe Fights Big Oil
Photo: New York Times
Home to over 11,000 indigenous people called the Achuar, there exists a part of the Amazon which straddles the border of Peru and Ecuador which is known to be one of the richest in the world in terms of nature. Thousands of different plants, animals, and insects call this area their home.
The Achuar people are a traditional people who are relatively self-sustaining. They hunt, fish, farm and trade between themselves and have preserved a rich culture and history. Now their very livelihoods are at stake.
Below: Video of the Life of the Achuar People
The remote Amazon headwaters along the border of Peru and Ecuador are one of the most biodiverse places on earth. This remote region – up to a week’s travel by bus, boat and canoe from the capital city of Lima – is home to over 11,000 Achuar indigenous people. As their ancestors have done before them, they hunt, fish, and raise crops in the Corrientes, Pastaza, and Morona river basins.
Today, the Achuar’s way of life and survival is threatened by international oil companies exploring and drilling for oil.
What was once a rich piece of the Amazon that provided a critical livelihood for thousands of Achuar people has been slowly corrupted and polluted throughout the years to a situation in which experts are now calling a “tipping point” for their entire Corrientes region.
Since the 1970’s big oil companies have been conducting exploratory drilling throughout the Corrientes region. For almost 40 years companies like Occidental Petroleum and Pluspetrol have been carelessly emptying “produced waters” – mineral rich water which is a byproduct of oil excavation – into local streams and drivers. These “produced waters” are full of harmful elements that when exposed to local water sources, corrupt them and create safety hazards.
As a result there has been a documented rise in health problems in Achuar communities. Diseases, tumors, skin ailments and even miscarriages have been associated with the mishandling of these produced waters as well as numerous cases of oil spills.
Through non-violent means the Achuar people are resisting these abuses and have filed a class action lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum in the United States demanding accountability and that they follow appropriate environmental standards.
For hundreds of years the Achuar people have lived in peace & harmony, now these people’s way of life is danger.
The Paztasa & Morona River basins otherwise know as “Abanico del Pastaza” are located in the rainforests of northern Peru. Stretching across millions of hecters of land they includes rivers, lakes and many undiscovered plants and animals.
The Abanico del Pastaza is one of the most diverse locations in all of South America, and perhaps the World. While considered a area of “importance” by several environmental bodies it is sadly not included in Peru’s National System of Natural Protected Areas or (SINANPE).
Until recently this swatch of land has been free of exploitation and deforestation but recent moves by the Peruvian government have opened over a million hectares of land (1.7 million to be exact) for exploratory drilling. Since 2011 Canadian company Talisman Energy in collaboration with Oxy (Occidental Petroleum) have begun exploratory drilling which has led to irreparably damaged the delicate ecosystem of Abanico del Pastaza.
Meanwhile Talisman claims that only an insignificant portion of the Achuar people are affected by their drilling – a claim strongly debated by the leaders of the Achuar tribes. The Achuar people have countered this claim, explaining how drilling has affected hunting and agriculture as well as their critical water sources.
In 2010 delegates from the Achuar people traveled to Canada to meet with Talisman executives and to protest the company’s environmental negligence.
In 2011 Achuar leader Peas Peas Ayui travelled to Calgary to challenge the CEO of Talisman.
To learn more about the struggle of the Achuar people here – AmazonWatch.org