Prevention Of Conflicts In Peru's Amazon And Beyond
As is widely known, the Amazon region comes under a number of pressures. Economic development is urgently needed both by the local inhabitants, who have traditionally been in the lower socio-economic conditions; and by the countries containing Amazon rainforest, who want the resources found within to fuel their economic growth. At the same time, the environmental importance of the region has never been in sharper focus.
In recognition of this, Rainforest Cruises was pleased to witness the signing of an initiative called ‘The Prevention of Conflicts in the Use of Natural Resources’, partnering the UN Development Agency, the Canadian International Development Agency and Peru’s Council of Ministers. More than $27 million was pledged to the four-year project, which aims to provide training and mechanisms to identify and pre-empt the causes of conflict, and bring all the actors – local organizations, business representatives, regional and national government – to the negotiating table, with the aim of reaching a compromise solution.
It is of particular pertinence in Peru as recent history has shown that conflicts between multinational extractive companies – mining and petroleum especially – and local communities can lead to costly and violent conflicts. One ongoing example is the proposed Conga Gold Mine project in Cajamarca, which has pitted US mining giant Newmont Mining Corporation against the local residents who are worried about the effect of the mine on their water supply.
Meanwhile, Espinar, in a remote part of Cusco province, has seen violent protests against the expansion of a nearby copper mine, owned by Anglo-Swiss mining company Xstrata plc, which locals accuse of polluting their town.
Neither of these is in Amazonia, but this is not to say that the region is any way immune. There are fortunes being made in oil drilling, such as in and around Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park; illegal mining for gold – particularly prevalent in the province of Madre de Dios in Peru; and logging, throughout the Amazon area. Tourism can play a positive part in reconciling the demands for economic growth with environmental concerns, but the attractions and implications of profitable extractive industries are not going to go away.
This initiative is, then, just the first step on a long and difficult journey.