News of an oil spill on Saturday in a remote part of Peru’s Amazon rainforest has reached the capital Lima. Regional newspaper in Loreto, “La Región” reports that a tanker ship’s hull ruptured in an accident causing the release of an estimated 400 barrels of crude oil into the delicate ecosystem.
Pluspetrol PR man Daniel Guerra sustains that the spill has been “controlled” and a clean-up of the area is already under way. The rupture was apparently caused by a drop in river flow, which caused the ship to run aground and its bottom to be pierced.
The mayor of the scarcely populated district of Parinari where the spill took place, Carmen Cárdenas, threaten to sue Pluspetrol if a clean-up is not rapid or the affected aren’t compensated.
The response from the central government has been quite different. Energy and Mines minister Pedro Sánchez told press that the 400 barrels does not represent a large amount of oil.
“It’s a very small amount. It doesn’t compare to something like what happened in the Golf of Mexico, it’s a very small thing and should not be any cause for alarm”, Sánchez affirmed.
Peru’s environment minister, Antonio Brack, angered indigenous tribes last year when he stated that no pollution or spills occur in the Amazon at all any more because of the stringent safety procedures followed, using this position to support drilling in nature reserves and tribal lands. He stated that claims of spills or pollution were from people with “erroneous ways of thinking”.
Sánchez estimates that it will take just 10 days to clean up the spill, and that Pluspetrol is supplying locals with uncontaminated food and water.
Denying accusations that the government is attempting to downplay the real extent of the spill in collusion with the oil company, he told press: “It is true this is something that shouldn’t happen, we must avoid any pollution and take swift action should it occur”.
There are approximately 28 native communities in the district of Parinari, Loreto, who survive by fishing the river. According to Américo Vela Ramírez, a local, has travelled to the regional capital of Iquitos to spread news of the plight of these communities and request help. To a radio station he explained that no supplies have been distributed and that the oil is spreading down river.
“There is lots of alarm because no-one is drinking the water from the Marañón, which is the only source we have, because we don’t have other drinking water. It’s essential that they send us water because since Saturday the people aren’t drinking that water. Until now we haven’t received one drop of clean water or any food from Pluspetrol”, he told local radio Ideeleradio.
The communities and the oil facility are found on the banks of the river Marañón on the edge of the Pacaya-Samira National Reserve.