Saturday, September 08, 2007

Cusco Plans New Roads into the Lower Urubamba, Manu National Park

One of the more frightening side-effects of Camisea is the incursion of new roads into the Lower Urubamba. With the Department of Cusco flush with cash from gas royalties, restricted to investment only in infrastructure, planners are doing what they know best - build roads. And some of those roads will soon open up extremely remote parts of the Amazon, threatening indigenous territories and protected areas with encroachment from settlers and illegal logging.

Until now, the lower Urubamba River watershed has remained relatively protected from these threats because there are no roads into the region and the difficult rapids of the Pongo de Mainique discourage most river traffic. However, this is all changing as roads on both margins of the Urubamba River upstream of the Pongo are pushing closer and closer to the Machiguenga Sanctuary, a protected area established to preserve an area of immense cultural and biological value.

Peru's Ministry of Transportation and Communication recently published a map on its website that shows projects planned in for 2007 in the Department of Cusco. Included in this map is are roads labeled as "en proyecto" (in project) that cut into the Amazon (shown as dashed gray lines on the map). One road passes through the Machiguenga Sanctuary, bypassing the Pongo de Mainique, and then follows the Urubamba River downstream through Machiguenga communities, before turning west through the community of Nuevo Mundo and off through the Machiguenga Communal Reserve and Otishi National Park. Another planned road heads up along the Camisea River where it leaves Machiguenga communities and enters the Nahua-Kugapakori Territorial Reserve for Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation and then proceeds on to ManĂș National Park.

These roads pose a tremendous risk to the lives of the Machiguenga as well as the Nahua, Nanti, and Kirineri peoples who live without contact with outsiders. They will also give loggers and ranchers access to some of the most important natural heritage in the Peruvian Amazon.
(Thanks to LB for this information.)

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