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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Peru defends Amazon gas plans
The Peruvian President, Alejandro Toledo, has dismissed protests by environmentalists and Hollywood stars over a controversial gas pipeline project in the Amazon.

Amazon river, Peru
Peru's jungles are home to a multitude of species
Mr Toledo insisted that the Camisea project "respects the environment, ancestral cultures and our people" and said he would not let "extremists" paralyse Peru's development.

Addressing Peruvian ethnic groups on Friday, he said he would soon sign a decree giving the go-ahead for construction of a maritime terminal, the AFP news agency reported.

On Thursday, 14 celebrities made public a letter they had sent to US President George W Bush, urging him to withhold funds from the project.

The signatories included Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon, comedian Chevy Chase and musicians Ruben Blades and Sting.

The letter called for "immediate steps to ensure that our tax dollars not contribute to the wholesale destruction of one of the planet's most biodiverse and remote rainforests and to the demise of vulnerable indigenous populations".

Pipelines

Last month the US Export-Import Bank voted against providing a $214m loan for the Camisea project, which is expected to cost $1.6bn.

Peru plans to extract gas from an Amazon field 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) south of the capital Lima - a remote area of virgin rainforest and isolated tribes.

Two 800 km pipelines - now 70% built - will then deliver the gas to a terminal on the edge of the Paracas coastal nature reserve, with a spur extending to Lima.

In their letter, the celebrities voiced concern that "much of the gas extracted from Camisea is destined for electricity markets in California".

"We feel sure that if the consumers in California knew about the high social and ecological costs of natural gas from the Peruvian Amazon, they would be highly opposed to it."

And in a letter to President Toledo, Bianca Jagger - the ex-wife of Rolling Stones star Mick Jagger - warned that Camisea would have a "catastrophic impact" on indigenous populations and rainforests.

The US position will be crucial at a key 10 September meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank, which is to vote on further loans for the project.

Endangered species

The Camisea venture is led by Argentina's Pluspetrol and Techint and US-based Hunt Oil.

According to the environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth, the project threatens a unique habitat for more than 800 species of birds and 45 species of orchids.

Endangered mammals such as the woolly monkey, giant anteater, giant armadillo and jaguar are also at risk in the region, it says.

The Paracas marine reserve contains critical feeding and resting areas for migratory birds, the World Wildlife Fund says.




SEE ALSO:
Taxing times for Peru's economy
28 Jul 03  |  Business
Amazon destruction speeds up
27 Jun 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Peru
01 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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