Environmental State of Emergency in the Corrientes River basin

Peru’s Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) have declared an environmental state of emergency in the Corrientes River basin in the Loreto region of northern Peruvian Amazonia. In August, a multi-sectoral commission of environmental experts released the results of water and soil tests, revealing dangerously high levels of hydrocarbons and heavy metals in and around indigenous communities located in the Corrientes River basin.

In February, when results from testing in the Pastaza River basin were released, the Ministry of the Environment responded by declaring an environmental state of emergency in the Pastaza. The results of testing in the Corrientes showed a level of contamination analogous to contamination in the Pastaza.

On August 13th, following the publication of the results from the Corrientes, regional indigenous federation FECONACO (Federación de Comunidades Nativas del Corrientes) released a pronouncement citing Argentine oil giant Pluspetrol Norte as directly responsible for the environmental contamination in their territory. In the statement, FECONACO takes Pluspetrol Norte to task for continuing a legacy of “43 years of indiscriminate and irresponsible oil activity” that began in the early 1970s when US based Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) began extractive activity in now notorious oil blocks 1 AB and 8x.

Exercising the right of indigenous people to self-determination (a right recognized by the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169), the pronouncement declared a state of emergency on behalf of the native communities, and called on the governmental entities responsible for environmental conservation to make the state of emergency official. The Ministry of the Environment has now responded with the implementation of a state of emergency in the Corrientes for a period of 90 days.

Deborah Rivett, Sunday, 08 September 2013

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