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