Freshwater conservation in the Peruvian Amazon

Geographical location:

Latin America/Caribbean > South America > Peru

Lake Rimachi, the biggest lake of the Amazon, has now a fishing management plan. Peru.
© WWF Peru

Summary

The Abanico del Pastaza wetlands and the Pacaya Samiria national reserve in northeastern Peru are extremely rich in biological and cultural diversity. But decades of development has effected water quality and reduced fish populations, the main source of food and income for many local communities.

WWF is working with indigenous groups to help manage threats to the region and protect themselves from the negative effects of commercial oil development and overfishing. WWF is also promoting conservation efforts in the protected areas.

Background

Extremely rich in biological and sociocultural diversity, the Abanico del Pastaza Wetlands Complex and Pacaya Samiria are of high conservation value and have been categorized as one of sixteen priority areas for biodiversity conservation in the Amazon River and Flooded Forest (ARFF) Ecoregion.

However, due to the high degree of connectivity in the Abanico del Pastaza, unsustainable natural resource extraction activities have had a profound and widespread impact on freshwater habitats, affecting wildlife populations, migration processes, and ecosystem health. Two major threats to both the biological and cultural diversity of the Complex are petroleum extraction and commercial over-fishing, both of which will be addressed.

Several oil lots currently being promoted threaten biodiversity conservation in the wetlands. It is critical to restore specific areas as soon as possible and reduce current contamination generated by oil companies in order to conserve Lake Rimachi’s, and the region’s, remaining, important natural resources over the long term.

Objectives

1. Improve livelihood opportunities and general welfare in priority communities in the Abanico del Pastaza and Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

2. Improve the indigenous community members and leader’s capacities, as well as those of the Pastaza Watershed Coordination Committee (PWCC) members in concert with policymakers and oil companies, on the viability of hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation, as well as designing mechanisms of social and environmental compensation for the recuperation of degraded ecosystems.

3. Sustainable natural resource management practices are identified and being implemented and replicated by communities in selected sites in the Pastaza River Basin and Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

4. Reduce the levels of overfishing through the implementation of a fishing management plan in Lake Rimachi, and an improvement of the market to ensure that economic benefits from the Complex’s natural resources flow directly to Kandozi indigenous communities.

5. Improve policies and planning pertaining to the Pastaza River Basin, by supporting the participatory development of transparent legal mechanisms that promote equitable and sustainable development in the River Basin, and protect stakeholders' natural resource rights.

Solution

This project is part of a long-term conservation program with the following goal: Promote and guarantee biodiversity conservation in this area through sustainable and participatory management of its ecosystems and natural resources, based on a scientific understanding of its ecological, hydrological, socioeconomic and cultural processes as well as on respect for the rights of those indigenous groups that live in the area.

At a larger scale, the program’s goal directly contributes to the achievement of the primary goals established at the ecoregional level for the Amazon River and Flooded Forests Ecoregion, which include: ensuring freshwater representation and integrity; maintaining and restoring connectivity and ecological and hydrological processes; and ensuring viable species populations.

Over the long term, the goal responds to the issue by providing indigenous groups with the skills and tools to conserve the Complex’s ecological processes. By building their capacity for sustainable management of natural resources and other strategies, threats to the area’s biodiversity can be controlled. This will result in an improvement of water quality, a reduction in deforestation and over-fishing and the sustainable and controlled use of other natural resources.

Freshwater contamination problems are too severe to be resolved over the short-term. However, through the exercise of indigenous people’s rights and the strengthening of their federations, the involvement of policymakers and civil society will be promoted so that better environmental standards exist and plans for adaptation and remediation of the areas affected by oil company activities are respected, thereby reducing the threat posed by petroleum extraction. By promoting participatory management of natural resources, the overexploitation of these resources will decrease, resulting in increased economic benefits for indigenous communities based on sustainable natural resource management strategies which will also benefit the Complex’s biodiversity.

Achievement

A. Freshwater ecosystem recovery. After more than 30 years of contamination in the Corrientes River due to irresponsible oil extraction activities, FECONACO, the indigenous federation that groups the Achuar and Urarinas people from this river, Pluspetrol, an Argentinean oil company, and the Government of Peru have signed a historical agreement that requires Pluspetrol to reinject 100% of production waters into old oil pits. Production waters also known as formation waters contain at least twice as salt as seawater and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and barium among others.

B. Facilitation of actor cooperation on the Peruvian and Ecuadorian borders of the Pastaza River Basin. The first bi-national Achuar Congress was held in August 2006 in San Lorenzo, Loreto, with more than 130 participants. The discussion of this meeting focused on 4 main issues: governance, territory, education and petroleum. After 3 days of intense discussions, many agreements were reached regarding environment conservation. A very important resolution was achieved: "The Achuar indigenous people of Peru and Ecuador reject any oil-related activity in their ancestral territories". The Achuar position against oil activity in their territories is still united and now is official for both countries. Building capacities in COBNAEP will improve coordination between Achuar people in the Pastaza basin from Peru and Ecuador.

C. Reduction of overfishing levels in Lake Rimachi. In December 2006, the election of the new directive of APA Yungani (Artisanal Fishing Association) was held in the town of Musa Karusha, very close to Lake Rimachi. More than 70 indigenous Kandozi fishermen as well as the Director of the Regional Office for Production - DIREPRO, participated during 2 days of intense debate. Personnel from the local NGO Racimos de Ungurahui, a WWF partner, assisted in the legal issues and personnel from DIREPRO assisted in technical issues. Second elections for the new APA Yungani Directive were held with participation from DIREPRO’s director to improve governance in the Kandozi territory (6 years ago DIREPRO, formerly known as Ministry of Fishing, was not allowed in Kandozi territory).

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