Peru Major Oil Spill

  • 29 Feb 2016 10:38

Following published on 25/02/2016 by junior risk analyst, Lawrence Clarke.

Oil spill

Peru has experienced three major oil spills since the start of 2016, all of which have occurred along the main Northern Peruvian Pipeline (NPP). The spills have been located in the Amazon provinces of Bagua, Datem del Marañon and Jaen, where there is a record of strong opposition against extractive projects. The most recent spill has heavily contaminated both the Chiriaco and Morona rivers, cutting off water supplies to eight indigenous communities and prompting the health ministry to declare a 90-day water quality emergency, which requires municipal, provincial and regional authorities to tackle the extensive health risk posed by the spill and frequent potable water quality checks.

The NPP is controlled by state-owned oil company Petroperu, which has not disclosed exactly how much crude oil escaped into the Amazon River. Local environment activists claim up to 3,000 barrels of crude oil have entered the river, destroying habitats and endangering local communities. Not only has oil production, which is a vital source of revenue for Peru, been affected, but Petroperu has been accused by a number of local charities and international actors of employing children to clean up contaminated areas. Additionally, local indigenous groups have rejected Petroperu’s claims that environmental forces triggered the spill, highlighting the lack of maintenance of aged equipment.

Oil spills and the exploitation of indigenous lands have been a divisive topic in Peru, sparking deadly protests on several occasions. Despite numerous oil spills and opposition from local communities, oil drilling and transportation is thriving in north-west Peru as the region accounts for around one third of Peru’s daily oil output. Local groups often clash with international companies, and the threat from civil unrest is heightened after the recent spills. In 2015, villagers from the Achuar community seized 11 oil wells demanding millions in compensation payments from Petroperu and several protests have taken place again as a result of the spills.

Petroperu has been criticised heavily for its management of the recent oil spills but also its general standard of operations. The company has been consistently accused of failing to maintain critical infrastructure along the NPP. More importantly, Petroperu has faced serious accusations from local activists that it failed to carry out adequate risk management assessments of the area. Although officials insist that a landslide triggered earlier spills, these claims have been widely dismissed by humanitarian and environmental agencies.

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