On Aug. 16, members of the Shipiba indigenous community of Canaan de Cashiyacu seized nine oil wells operated by the Maple Gas Corporation in Maquia district, Ucayali province, in the Peruvian Amazon region of Loreto. The Shipiba are protesting the failure of Maple Gas to fulfill accords it signed a year ago, and demanding that the company now leave the area.
Robert Guimaraes of the Inter-Ethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Jungle (AIDESEP) said the company’s unfulfilled promises include payment for the use of the land and programs to monitor the health of the population. The Shipiba say Maple Gas never obtained authorization of any kind from their community to operate in the area, in violation of Peruvian law and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Maple Gas Corporation general manager Guillermo Ferreyros claims that studies done by the Loreto Regional Health Department showed no signs of environmental or health contamination in Canaan de Cashiyacu. In addition, Ferreyros said the land was valued by the National Appraisal Commission at 58,000 nuevos soles ($17,907), while the Shipiba communities are demanding $20 million. [Adital 8/21/06; Cadena Peruana de Noticias Radio 8/18/06]
But a study by the group EarthRights International, cited in an August 2005 report from the Regional AIDESEP Organization of Ucayali (ORAU), concluded that Maple Gas “has caused serious environmental, social and cultural contamination” to the Shipiba community of Canaan de Cashiyacu. According to EarthRights International, the local Cachiyacu River “has rainbow colored reflections and a smell of hydrocarbons,” indicating “it is not appropriate for human consumption.” The company barred the community from planting crops in their own territory, resulting in nutrition problems, and the study also found that Maple Gas employees had treated residents badly and had sexually abused local women, resulting in many cases of sexually transmitted diseases. A high percentage of the population also suffers from pneumonia and diarrhea, and several community members have died while suffering severe abdominal pains. [Report from ORAU 8/1/05 posted on EarthRights International website, www.earthrights.org]