Oil drilling on indigenous land has a history that dates back to the 1970s with the arrival of U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy). Pluspetrol Norte, a local subsidiary of Argentine-based Pluspetrol which recently sold a 45% stake to China’s state-run National Petroleum Corporation, has since begun to operate in the area.
At the most recent indigenous assembly, held in early August, Achuar leaders accused oil companies of endangering the Achuar people’s health and environment.
"The State, in complicity with the oil companies, is systematically violating our rights. The government is incapable of sanctioning those who pollute our rivers and land," according to the vice president of a local Peruvian association that acts as an umbrella group for indigenous groups in South America. "That’s why it is up to us to take action," he told IPS.
” A recent government study, published in May, which studied water quality and took biological samples from the indigenous community reported high blood concentrations of cadmium and lead in samples.
According to the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defence (AIDA) and the Peruvian Environmental Law Society (SPDA), high concentrations of cadmium in the blood can lead to numerous health problems, including lung damage and cancer, kidney disease, weakening of the bones, chronic bronchitis and heart disease. Lead, in turn, affects the nervous system, endangering the brain and the kidneys.