“Our territory is our market, the forest is our pharmacy…it is our life. And it is contaminated.”
Aurelio Chino, leader of the Indigenous Quechua Federation of Pastaza, lives in a small village in western-north Peru. From his house you can hear the constant sound of the nearby river Pastaza.
“We have the right to live in a healthy environment.”
Aurelio’s community suffers the consequences of 40 years of oil activities in their territory. Aurelio recently found out that his daughter has traces of heavy metals in her blood.
The region where Aurelio and his community live in has been declared in a state of environmental and health emergency. Yet, the oil company Pacific Stratus Energy continues to operate in these communities’ ancestral territories. It has been granted a temporary exploitation permit for 2 years by the state of Peru.
Aurelio and his people are fighting for Peru’s government to take into account their right to a healthy environment. For him, this cannot be done without guaranteeing reparations for the damages suffered..
Aurelio hopes that at the end of the 2 year contract, a fair consultation process will take place to set the terms for the next contract to exploit their natural resources. But he knows that it requires political will from the government. Alas, in this context of climate change, Peru doesn’t seem to be taking the right path.
But Aurelio and his people will keep fighting for their rights. “I named my son Herodito: it means revolutionary hero defending native people’.”
Photo: Julie Byrnes/Oxfam
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