Threats

Intact But Threatened

While still largely intact, the Alto Purús — Manu Mosaic is threatened by several deforestation drivers including both illegal and official road construction, drug cultivation and production, and the expanding agricultural frontier. In addition, illegal gold mining is devastating areas of Madre de Dios department to the south, causing rapid deforestation and contamination in protected areas and indigenous lands.

For the past two decades, the Alto Purús National Park and surrounding had been the center of Peru’s illegal logging trade, specifically Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and Spanish Cedar (Cedrela odorata) among the world’s rarest and most valuable hardwoods. While still a major problem, the amount of illegal logging has dropped in recent years due to a combination of several factors, including stronger en situ enforcement of protected areas, more effective oversight of logging operations and export shipments by Peru’s supervising agency, OSINFOR, and reduced international demand for Peru’s timber of questionable origin. Our current focus is to support indigenous opposition to destructive road projects, while strengthening vigilance in key watersheds impacted by drug smuggling and cultivation and illegal resource extraction.

 

Puerto Esperanza – Iñapari Highway

A bill submitted to Congress in August 2016 proposed construction of a 273 km road through the Alto Purús National Park, Purús Communal Reserve and Madre de Dios Territorial Reserve for isolated people. It would connect the capital of the Purús region, the small town of Puerto Esperanza, to the InterOceanic Highway in the town of Iñapari in Madre de Dios department.

This was the fourth bill submitted by highway proponents over the last 12 years. The highway’s main advocates are Ucayali Congressman Carlos Tubino and the Catholic priest in Puerto Esperanza, Miguel Piovesan who is originally from Italy.  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. They are supported by a small group of mestizo (non indigenous) storeowners and land speculators in Puerto Esperanza who hope to benefit from the new road. The region’s indigenous groups, however, have continually and adamantly opposed 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.

The Proposed Highway and Alternative Transit Routes

UAC Highway Posts

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 Highway News

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