Local authorities have filed a formal complaint against a group called the Central Committee of Agricultural Producers for constructing a road inside two protected areas near the town of Puerto Esperanza in Peru’s Purús Province. The committee is comprised of a small group of non-indigenous men and women who are promoting the construction of a road to connect Puerto Esperanza with the town of Iñapari in neighboring Madre de Dios state. A bill to construct the road is pending in Congress.
An investigation documented the presence of unauthorized construction workers, camps, tree cutting and large-scale forest fires. By beginning construction themselves, the pro-road group hopes to generate political support for the bill by making it appear that local people support the road. However, in reality, approximately 80% of the of the region’s population is vehemently opposed to the road due to environmental, cultural and social impacts. The region’s indigenous federation, FECONAPU, has repeatedly expressed its opposition.
The road would cross the Alto Purús National Park, Purús Communal Reserve, and Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve for Isolated Tribes (see map of proposed road). The region contains some of the least disturbed forests in the entire Amazon Basin and is home to some of the world’s last isolated or “uncontacted” tribes.
According to members of the pro-road group, they received food and financial support from the mayor of Puerto Esperanza and the local Catholic priest in exchange for helping build the road. The priest has been tirelessly promoting the Puerto Esperanza – Iñapari road over the past decade.
Not only does the group lack the permits necessary for building roads, but also they have ignored protected area laws by constructing the road inside two protected areas: the MABOSINFRON Conservation Concession and the buffer zone of the Purús Communal Reserve. (See Map.) The MABOSINFRON Concession was created in 2012 by local people concerned about illegal logging near Puerto Esperanza. The Purús Communal Reserve is utilized by local indigenous communities for sustainable resource use and managed jointly by Peru’s protected areas agency, SERNANP, and the indigenous conservation organization EcoPurús.
As of February 15th, the government has yet to respond to the formal complaint. Local authorities requested a formal investigation into the road building and legal charges against the individuals responsible for its construction and financing.
Peru’s congress is scheduled to vote on the road bill in March or April.
The Catholic Parish in Puerto Esperanza, Purús publishes a publication called the “The Living Word” (“La Revista Palabra Viva”). See the latest version of the publication which celebrates the illegal road and provides various pro-road propaganda.
View a video of the illegal road construction, posted as pro-road propaganda to show supposed local support for the road.