Companies in Peru are planning to clear more than 23,000 hectares of primary rainforest in the northern Amazon in order to cultivate oil palm, according to several NGOs, endangering the fragile ecosystem seen as essential for the wellbeing of the planet.
Some of the operations would take place on two Peruvian plantations called Maniti and Santa Cecilia. About 85% of Maniti and Santa Cecilia is primary forest, according to the Association for the Conservation of the Amazon Basin (ACCA) in Peru.
More than 9,300 hectares (or almost 13,000 football pitches) of primary forest might be cleared on these two plantations alone.
The leader in Perus palm oil industry, Palmas del Espino, will provide technical and financial support to Islandia Energy and Palmas del Amazonas, the companies in charge of the operation.
Ecuador and Colombia have a lot more area under oil palm cultivation then Peru or other countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. However, Peru has somehow managed to expand over recent years, shocking previous expectations and predictions.
Because it is in the interest of both the national and some regional governments to promote and incentivize cultivation, almost 1.5 million hectares have been identified as potentially suitable for the project. This move has caused many people to see oil palm as one of the biggest threats to the Peruvian Amazon.
Perus Forestry Law prohibits using forest for agricultural ends or other activities affecting vegetation cover, sustainable use and conservation of forestry resources.
Unfortunately, a loophole allows for a change of use if a certain area in the Amazon is deemed to have agricultural aptitude. For an area to be labeled as such, a study of the soils, water sources and biodiversity must show that the sustainability of the ecosystem is guaranteed.
The outgoing regional government approved the change of use for both Maniti and Santa Cecilia on 24 December, just before handing over to a new administration, according to The Guardian.
Two other plantations, Santa Catalina and Tierra Blanca, will also receive technical and financial support from Palmas del Espino.
According to Finer, ACCAs Sidney Novoa and the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicass Clinton Jenkins, Santa Catalina and Tierra Blanca together would involve clearing 13,900 hectares of primary forest.
Noriega, from the regional government, told the Guardian that the changes of use for Santa Catalina and Tierra Blanca have not been approved to date, and that both projects are currently being evaluated by the Ministry of Agriculture.
When they are transferred to us in the Regional Program on Forestry Resources and Wildlife Management, we will be meticulous regarding any changes of use they are requesting. I can tell you in advance that we are a new administration seeking to relaunch the forestry sector, in the proper and ethical way, and we are on the side of the environment in general. We want it to be respected and to say ‘No more’ to the abuses against the forests and biodiversity.
All four plantations are scheduled to be in Perus vast Loreto region, and the EIAs state the aim is to provide palm oil for Perus domestic market. All four EIAs were approved by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2013.
The Amazon forest provides very important services: clean air, clean water and lots of biodiversity, says ACCAs director Daniela Pogliani.
If we want to foster economic development, we believe there are other ways to do it. It doesnt have to imply cutting down the Amazon. We want a development for the long-term and for the benefit of everyone, not just initiatives that dont consider long term impacts on the environment and social structure.
Fortunately, neither company at Maniti and Santa Cecilia has begun deforesting yet.