Intact But Threatened

While still largely intact, the Alto Purús complex is threatened by deforestation, including road construction, drug cultivation and production, and the expanding agricultural frontier. In recent years it has come under siege by illegal loggers intent on cutting Peru’s largest remaining stands of mahogany, among the world’s rarest and most valuable timber species. The logging is detrimental to the ecosystem, exploits the local communities, and is an immediate threat to the survival of the still-isolated people in the forest interior.

Entire tribes have been wiped out by illnesses brought by loggers and other outsiders, and violent conflicts are increasing as these hunters and gatherers struggle in a last-ditch effort to protect what remains of their traditional lands and way of life.

Puerto Esperanza – Iñapari Highway Background:

A bill submitted to Congress in August 2016 proposed construction of a road through the Alto Purús National Park, Purús Communal Reserve and Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve for isolated people. It would connect the small town of Puerto Esperanza, in Ucayali department, to the InterOceanic Highway in the town of Iñapari in Madre de Dios.

The highway’s main proponent is Congressman Carlos Tubino from Ucayali. He is supported on the ground by the local Catholic priest based in Puerto Esperanza. They argue that a road is necessary to reduce dependence on expensive air travel, and thus reduce the costs of goods and living in general. However, the region’s indigenous groups oppose the road, believing that there are ulterior motives behind the proposal, such as logging, and that it would prove disastrous to the region’s ecological integrity and the way of life of its isolated and settled indigenous inhabitants alike.

In May, the bill was signed into law ( N° 30574). It  declares “of public necessity and preferential national interest” the sustainable development of the Alto Purús River region. However, the Law does not include construction of a road but instead prioritizes a multi-modal transport route utilizing the rivers and existing roads in Brazil. Nonetheless, legal experts argue that the multi-modal part was added simply to ensure approval of the law, and that proponents, Congressman Tubino, have every intention to continue promoting the highway, especially if the cost of living and access to government services do not immediately improve.

Maps of the Proposed Highway and Alternative Transit Routes

Upper Amazon Conservancy Posts About the Highway

Congressional Commission Rules Against Purús Highway, March 2017

Indigenous Leader Seeks Support in Fight Against Highway, September 2016

Illegal Road Discovered in Alto Purús, February 2013

Corruption and Bribes Behind Highway Bill, May 2013

Peru’s Politicians Ignore Indigenous Rights and Push for “Highway of the Dead”, May 2012

Poster showing Social-Environmental Impacts of the Highway, November 2012

Additional Articles and Information About the Proposed Highway

Declaration from Purús Tribes Reiterating Their Opposition to Highway, September 2016

New Purús – Iñapari Highway Bill Submitted to Congress, August 2016

The Guardian article: Peru funded illegal Amazon road, claims Global Witness, May 2013

Global Witness Report on Road Bill: Corruption, Bribes and Conflicts of Interest, May 2013

Poster showing the impacts of the proposed highway, September 2012

Opposition letters from Peru’s Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Culture, and Ministry of Transportation, June 2012

Technical report on road’s potential impacts, May 2012

Map of proposed road, May 2012

Opposition statement by indigenous and government authorities from Tahuamanu, Madre de Dios, May 2012

Opposition from Alto Purús indigenous conservation organization, EcoPurús,
May 2012

Bill submitted to Peru Congress to declare the road “a public necessity”, April 2012

Letters from the Alto Purús indigenous federation, FECONAPU, rejecting the road and demanding the expulsion of road advocate and priest, Miguel Piovesán, March 2012