As printed in the Village Earth Fall 2006 Newsletter:
Currently, two-thirds of the Shipibo’s legal territory and resource base is under threat from hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas) exploration and exploitation. Exploration of future drilling sites can be just as environmentally-damaging as actual exploitation when land is cleared during seismic testing, test wells are drilled, and other infrastructure is built in remote forest areas. Oil exploitation has had detrimental effects on many indigenous groups throughout the Amazon, most notably over the past twenty years in Ecuador. With more companies in pursuit of the world’s remaining oil reserves, the Amazon basin is coming under more and more pressure as one of the last untapped reserves. Unfortunately, the indigenous people of the region are paying the price for the rest of the world’s oil consumption habits.
One of the most detrimental oil projects in Peru has been the Camisea pipeline farther south in the remote Lower Urubamba Basin, up river from Shipibo territory. Block 88 was leased to the Multi-national oil conglomerate Pluspetrol working in close ties with such US-based multinational corporations as Hunt Oil and Halliburton. This pipeline has ruptured five times since its inception in mid-2004. It has caused untold environmental damage and adversely affected the many indigenous groups in the region. More than 60% of Block 88 is located within the Territorial Reserve set aside for uncontacted indigenous peoples.
When a Village Earth representative visited the region in July-August 2006, the Shipibo and local indigenous organizations expressed great concern about their indigenous neighbors suffering from this grave exploitation. They also expressed concern that their territory was next in-line for this type of environmental and cultural devastation. As expressed by the head of the AIDESEP (Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon) women’s program for ORAU (AIDESEP Regional Organization of the Ucayali) in Pucallpa, “Our market are the rivers; our economy is our natural resources.” By polluting the rivers and destroying the natural resources of the Shipibo – not only is the environment affected, but also the Shipibo way of life.
Village Earth will continue to work with the Shipibo as an ally. By facilitating greater Shipibo intercommunity cooperation, the Shipibo can organize for greater political and economic clout against these destructive outside forces. Through each small step forward, whether it be a strategic planning workshop or the formation of a small business cooperative, the Shipibo will be one step closer to the goal of indigenous self-determination.