Thursday, September 27, 2007

Department of Propaganda: Energy Project Saves Rainforest

Earlier this month, the Latin Business Chronicle published an article titled, Peru Energy Project Saves Rainforest, which credits the Camisea Project with saving 1.5 million hectares of Peruvian rainforest. The article, written by the InterAmerican Development Bank's Roger Hamilton, is reprinted from the IDB's own IDBAmerica magazine. In the article, a wide-eyed development-bureaucrat-turned-rainforest-explorer, IDB's Joseph Milewski, points to a map made by CEDIA (Center for Development of Indigenous Amazonians) showing the extensive network of reserves, protected areas, and indigenous territories that CEDIA, the local communities, and other non-governmental organizations fought for years to establish - and takes credit for it all.

The inaccuracies of this article could be written off as lousy journalism if they were not so offensive to the many dedicated people who have literally protested the IDB and the Camisea companies in order to get any protection whatsoever for the Amazon.

Hamilton writes:
Today, largely as the result of Camisea, vast areas have been designated as parks and reserves, giving the indigenous peoples of the Lower Urubamba an unprecedented guarantee that they will be able to make their own decisions on how to safeguard their environment and protect their cultural identity in the years to come.
...a large number of indigenous communities occupy land that has been demarcated and titled, most of which lies along the Urubamba River and its tributaries. Along the river’s main stem, patches of land belong to settlers who also have been granted titles.

In fact, the project has titled a whopping total of zero indigenous territories along the Urubamba River and its tributaries. All of the titling of indigenous communities was done long before the presence of the Camisea consortia and the IDB and was carried out by groups like CEDIA and Comaru with support from Oxfam America and others.

The closest the project has gotten to titling indigenous communities in the region was commissioning a diagnostic study (in which CEDIA participated) of the land tenure along the pipeline route. This was in part because some 150 former TGP workers had invaded the territory of indigenous peoples in the Mantalo River watershed. That study identified at least seven indigenous communities in the Upper Urubamba that needed titling as well as thousands of individual campesino titles that needed to be formalized. So far, 80% of the campesino lands have been addressed, while not a single indigenous community has been titled.

All of the protected areas that the article credits the project with creating: Otishi National Park, the Machiguegna and Ashaninka Communal Reserves, and the Machiguenga Sanctuary, were planned and delineated long before the project. The IDB did give a $5 million institutional strengthening loan to the Peruvian government prior to project financing, but the agency created with this money, the GTCI (Grupo Técnico de Coordinación Interinstitucional), only paid for two consultation workshops during the process of declaring the protected areas. All of the technical work of georeferencing, scientific research, and biological inventories were carried out by NGO's including CEDIA and the Chicago Field Musuem, which together invested 30 times the amount that the IDB contributed to the process.

Hamilton also mentions the Nahua Kugapakori Nanti Reserve for indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and claims that the IDB gave it a "solid legal standing and a real measure of protection." In fact, indigenous organizations and activities have long criticized the IDB for financing a project working in this reserve (created in 1990) because of the risk it poses to the lives of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. To assuage critics, the IDB and the Toledo administration quietly passed new legislation in 2005, changing jurisdiction of the reserve (which already existed) and declaring the indigenous residents as wards of the state. Today, the project is in the process of drilling dozens of wells in the Reserve, illegal logging continues unabated, and most of the recently contacted residents are concentrated in settlements along the Camisea River, confined by the project to hunt, gather, and fish in a much reduced territory.

Sadly, the IDB's $5 million investment in the Peruvian government has left virtually nothing to show for itself except for a handful of workshops, weighty "diagnostic" documents, and a shiny, well-outfitted GTCI office in the basement of the Ministry of Energy and Mines. It is no wonder then that their publicists have to instead take credit for the years of struggle and hard work of local communities and organizations. Meanwhile, the project continues to cause damage to the Amazon, its protected areas, and indigenous communities.

Thanks to Lelis Rivera for his comments.
Photo: Ian Gary

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