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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 February 2007, 04:29 GMT
Peru's Amazon oil deals denounced
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Peruvian man looks at a pipe feed into the Amazon river
Protesters say oil exploration pollutes the Amazon
Environmental and human rights group in Peru have denounced the government's campaign to auction off large swathes of the Amazon to oil and gas companies.

They say the amount of Peruvian Amazon territory open to exploration has risen from 13% to 70% in two years.

They say this is putting at risk the biodiversity of the Amazon and the lives of indigenous people.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has said the plans are part of his investment programme to tackle widespread poverty.

'Investment shock'

At a time when scientists have emphasised the importance of the Amazon as the vanguard against catastrophic climate change, the government of Peru is selling off its tropical forest to oil companies at an exponential rate.

map

Environmental and human rights groups in Peru say this will devastate large tracts of pristine rainforest and the native communities that live there.

This month, the state-run agency Peru Petro, is hoping to attract US oil companies to buy 11 drilling concessions in the jungle, covering an area the size of the US state of Maine.

Only one of these sites does not intrude on indigenous lands or protected areas.

Human rights groups say Peru Petro has flouted international benchmarks relating to the consent of indigenous communities, some of whom are isolated tribes who have never had contact with the outside world.

In the 1990s, an initial meeting with an isolated group resulted in the death of around half the population who were exposed to illnesses to which they had no natural defence.

In total, an area the size of California is already signed over or up for auction to oil companies.

President Garcia has called his policy investment shock in a country where more than half the population still live below the poverty line.

But critics say if that investment means the destruction of Peru's Amazon it will only bring more misery for future generations.


SEE ALSO
Peru oil staff trapped by protest
12 Oct 06 |  Business
Country profile: Peru
29 Jul 06 |  Country profiles



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