— octubre 23, 2020 a las 11:04 am

The Chinese Amazon Waterway project threatens the survival of indigenous communities in Peru


Photography: CAAAP

The Chinese company Cohidro SA in charge of the Hidrovía Amazónica megaproject has had a series of complaints from the indigenous communities – more than 14 indigenous towns – that involve the project, such as the lack of prior consultation (which they had to demand), the lack of studies that show the real extent of the impact on the river, fish, and fishing – activity from which they subsist. Because the Chinese Consortium has not corrected the more than 500 observations made by the National Environmental Certification Service for Sustainable Investments (Senace), the communities have been requesting the cancellation of the work.

Despite the fact that Concesionaria Hidrovía Amazónica SA (Cohidro), made up of the Chinese company Synohidro and the Peruvian company Construcción y Administración, withdrew in December from continuing with the approval of its Environmental Impact Study (EIA), the Ministry of Transport and Communications pointed out that the concession contract is still in force, but it is the indigenous peoples of Ucayali and Loreto who demand the definite cancellation of the work because it is a latent threat to their survival.

“The route of the Ucayali river is part of the daily lives of the indigenous populations and the hamlets. Their only source of drink, food, and income is the river, because that is where the fish are. With the dredging of the rivers, the water will be cloudy and that will restrict the evolutionary system of living organisms because there is a sudden change in the ecosystem and the places where they live. Turbidity is a natural cycle in rivers, but to demand a permanent situation all year round is to threaten the life of human beings and hydrobiological organisms ”, says Berlin Diques Ríos, president of the Aidesep Ucayali Regional Organization (ORAU)

For her part, the lawyer Verónica Shibuya, a lawyer from the Amazon Center for Anthropology and Practical Application (CAAAP) states that “the river constitutes a cultural element of roots for indigenous populations that has not been valued either in the Preliminary Consultation, or since the project commenced. It must be made clear that the actions for this project to be carried out are very harmful to the rights of indigenous populations. This is something that the common citizens of the city or capital do not fully understand. This project not only affects indigenous populations, but the entire population”.

Both Shibuya and Diques stated that the Peruvian State has not considered the preservation of the cosmovision and integrity of the indigenous and riverside populations of the Amazon, whose relationship with the rivers has an implication that goes beyond the economic.

The indigenous leader of Ucayali said that indigenous organizations are not against the development of works that favor the country’s connectivity, «but development works must have sustenance and technical studies that guarantee the survival of our community.» Likewise, he affirms that the state cannot obligate Hidrovía project to provide services to the indigenous populations involved, such as basic services such as health and education.

Berlín Diques Ríos

“The State should pay attention to the indigenous communities if there is a project involved – but the project cannot beobligated to provide basic services. That is not the right way. The State must assume responsibilities that help the communities develop, because it has a historical debt with the indigenous populations, and that has been demonstrated with the filing of the Escazú Agreement, ” says Diques Ríos.

This mega-project, of approximately US $ 94.7 million, with a 20-year concession, is a project promoted by the State for more than ten years, from the government of Ollanta Humala, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and now also from the government of Martín Vizcarra But it does not currently have social viability, since it not only involves 14 indigenous peoples between Ucayali and Loreto, but also riverside populations that live along the four important rivers: Amazonas, Marañón, Huallaga and Ucayali.

“All the governments, for the most part, have had a smug view of the Amazon. The Amazon is like a market where they can obtain resources and what do we obtain: higher rates of poverty, environmental and social effects. These inequalities give way to that political and normative condescension on the part of the Peruvian State that does not put the dignity of indigenous populations first, ” says Shibuya.

Both interviewees stated that the State must cancel the megaproject. The indigenous leader says that neither the State nor the company are guaranteeing an adequate execution of the work, and that it only violates the rights of indigenous populations:

“We are going to have the last word, we are going to sue the Peruvian State to annul the contractual issue, because we have no guarantees of the type of activity that will be carried out in our territory. It is more aimed at satisfying transnational companies, while indigenous populations continue to be affected by social gaps. On that side, our position is unique. ”

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