A reserve for uncontacted indigenous people in the remote Peruvian Amazon has been made off-limits to oil and gas companies.
Human rights and environmental campaigners, who have been lobbying the Peruvian government over the issue, welcomed the decision. But they warned that oil and gas companies will still do major harm in Peru if they push ahead with other plans.
The reserve is inhabited by some of the world's last uncontacted indigenous people, a group known as the Murunahua (or Chitonahua). When some Murunahua were contacted for the first time in the mid-1990s, it was reported that an estimated 50 per cent of them died.
Peru's state oil and gas company, Perupetro, said that they will now avoid the area. But they also announced their intention of opening 25 new “lots” for oil and gas exploration, totalling 10 million hectares and almost all in the Amazon.
This move has been immediately criticised by Peru’s national Amazon indigenous organisation, AIDESEP, who called it a “new provocation” and a “new threat” to Peru’s indigenous population.
Perupetro began a promotional tour in Houston earlier this week. Survival International say that the company chairman, Daniel Saba, has made numerous inflammatory comments in the recent past, including denying uncontacted tribes exist or that any reserves have been created for them.
“It’s good news that the Murunahua Reserve has been made off-limits to oil and gas companies,” said Stephen Corry of Survival International, “It would have been extremely dangerous to the tribes and the companies would have had no consent to operate there”.
He added, “But Perupetro must now extend that precedent to other areas in Peru: it must not allow companies to work anywhere where they don’t have the consent of local people – uncontacted or not”.