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Indigenous Leader Denounces Peru's Camisea Gas Project Expansion

10/03/2014 11:28 GMT | Updated 08/05/2014 10:59 BST

An indigenous leader from the Peruvian Amazon has denounced the recently-approved expansion of Peru's biggest gas project, according to Peruvian newspaper La Republica.

Isaias Abras Turco is reported to have said that the expansion of the Camisea gas project will put indigenous peoples' lives at 'grave risk' and 'serious danger', and that the 20,000 people living in the region are against it. He is also reported to have said that the benefits of the project to date have not reached local people, that the project has made peoples' lives worse, that corruption is rife, that the company leading the project, Pluspetrol, has contaminated a local river, and that the expansion has not been approved by the heads of local indigenous communities.

'We - the heads - we haven't approved anything regarding expansion in Lot 88,' La Republica reports him saying. 'They say the study [an Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed operations] has already been approved. So we ask ourselves: who authorized it? No public meeting has been held, nor one workshop, about it.'

Abras Turco is reported as claiming to speak for 22 heads of indigenous communities in the region, and criticizing national, regional and local government 'for their incapacity to set in motion development projects.'

'We're over-studied, over-diagnosed,' he is quoted as saying. 'They know everything about us, but not one authority has bothered to carry out works for our benefit.'

Abras Turco is the president of the Kirigueti indigenous community, downstream from Lot 88, along the banks of the River Urubamba. Such strong criticism from a local indigenous leader reported in a national newspaper such as La Republica is extremely rare.

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Almost 75% of Lot 88 is superimposed over a reserve for indigenous peoples in 'voluntary isolation' and 'initial contact', who are extremely vulnerable to contact with gas project workers because of their lack of immunological defences.

The expansion of the Camisea gas project is scheduled to include 18 new wells, seismic tests across 100s of kms, and a 10.5 km pipeline extension.

Numerous Peruvian and international civil society organizations and individuals have requested expansion to be suspended, as have the UN's Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.