Oil and gas extraction in the Amazon: Camisea

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Camisea project.
© WWF-Peru

The many faces of the Camisea natural gas project

Peru's Camisea project is designed to exploit a huge gas field in the Amazonian region that could save the country some $4 billion in energy costs and earn it several billion dollars more in the form of exports.1 The troubles that it will bring to the country’s forests and people are another matter.
The gas field (Block 88) and pipeline project is located in one of the world’s most ecologically and socially fragile areas. A region of great biodiversity, Camisea is home to Machiguenga, Yine, Nanti, Nahua and possibly Kirineri indigenous peoples.

Areas affected by the Camisea project

Conservation International has prioritized the Cordillera (mountain range) of Vilcabamba as a global “hotspot” for conservation, while the lower Urubamba is located in WWF’s Southwestern Amazon Moist Forests ecoregion because of its high biodiversity and globally important ecological functions.

What are the impacts of the Camisea project?

  • Fish stock declines: Some indigenous communities report sharp declines in fish in local streams and lakes due to severe soil erosion and landslides resulting from the pipeline's construction along steep ridges. Reportedly, this is resulting in a rise of malnutrition, particularly among children.
  • Deforestation/Landscape disturbance: Opening up corridors for the pipeline alters draining patterns, affects movement of species, interrupts seed dispersal and natural forest regeneration, destroys habitat and negatively impacts the landscape.
  • Pollution: Solid waste management has been one of the primary issues surrounding Camisea.
  • Disease and death of indigenous people: Early explorations by Shell in the 1980s resulted in almost one-half of the Nahua people dying from influenza and whooping cough, to which they were not immune. Camisea contractors are still in relatively close contact with indigenous people, sustaining an inordinately high mortality rate within vulnerable local populations.
  • Roads and migration: Roads attract settlers, by facilitating access for those wanting to extract resources. The Camisea Natural Gas Project has built a main road and secondary roads for the operations and maintenance of its infrastructure.
    History shows that where roads are built, extraction soon follows, along with smallholder agriculture. These roads are made possible and enlarged by colonists in coordination with local municipalities.2
The Peruvian Government and project officials insist they are taking measures to mitigate or eliminate these problems, and they have earmarked 7% of the project revenue for local populations living along the pipeline route.3

Lessons learned from Camisea

  • The Government does not have the power to ensure that companies keep their impacts to an acceptable level: the law allows for incidents and is riddled with loopholes and perverse incentives.
  • The Government does not have the political will, the capacity, the tools or the means to make companies comply with the law, environmental management (e.g. Environmental Impact Assessment).
  • The local governments do not have the capacity to manage the income, there is a lack of planning, and the development model is questionable.
  • The companies have only complied to a small degree with the Peruvian Law, and have not yet paid the fines imposed.
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1 OneWorld. Last-Ditch Effort to Delay Financing for Controversial Pipeline Project in Peru. http://us.oneworld.net/article/view/90860/1/. Accessed 8/10/05.
2 ParksWatch. Machiguenga Communal Reserve.http://www.parkswatch.org/parkprofile.php?l=eng&country=per &park=macr&page=thr. Accessed 8/10/05.
3 Caffrey, P.B. Undated. "An independent environmental and social assessment of the Camisea Gas Project". http://www.oxfamamerica.org/whatwedo/where_we_work/ south_america/news_publications/pdfs/camisea_eng.pdf. Accessed 07/10/05

Next [Dams in the Amazon] >>

 / ©: Peter Kostishack / Amazon Alliance
Camisea project
© Peter Kostishack / Amazon Alliance

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