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Peruvian Amazon: The Challenges of a Wonder of Nature

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

On November 11, 2011, it was announced that the Amazon rainforest had been declared provisionally as one of the world's seven new wonders of nature by the New 7 Wonders foundation. Citizens [es] of the Peruvian region of Loreto, especially those from Iquitos, celebrated [es] the announcement. Regional President Yvan Vásquez even jumped into [es] the waters of the Nanay river to celebrate. However, the confirmation or certification will not take place until 2012 [es].

Many say this nomination will benefit the region of Loreto and the city of Iquitos by incrementing tourism [es], resulting in a positive social and economic impact, but is the region prepared for this? Regional and local authorities say [es] they are working towards that.

Iquitos particularly is advertised as a travel destination, but the city is not actually working to become one. Its attractive and scenic urban spots look unkempt to foreigners, have a higher crime rate that the rest of the city, and lack the elements to persuade visitors to stay there. Many are also worried about its positioning as a sex destination.

Additionally, the city of Iquitos is facing traffic chaos and broken roads due to unfinished sewage works. There are also frequent reports [es] about assaults on vessels in the Amazon river, not to mention assaults [es] on tourists in general. Also, the Amazon as an ecosystem faces constant threats, like oil spills [es], deforestation [es], river contamination [es], and above all, the authorities’ indifference [es] to these issues.

Jorge Agurto, in Servindi, reflects [es] on this:

La red se inunda de comentarios elogiosos al Perú e insufla alientos a favor del turismo a fin de aprovechar la designación. Pocos se refieren a los pueblos indígenas que la protegen, menos a los graves problemas que atraviesan los bosques amazónicos por falta de un plan de desarrollo amazónico solvente, integral y responsable.

Quienes hoy celebran la distinción amazónica ¿acaso se indignaron cuando el 28 de abril de 2010 un decreto supremo del gobierno de Alan García -aún no derogado- declaró de “interés nacional y social” (1) la construcción de 20 centrales hidroeléctricas en la cuenca del río Marañón, en la amazonía norte del Perú, en los próximos 40 años?.

No es mi intención ser aguafiesta de la celebración por la amazonía pero considero que su valoración será más auténtica, completa y real si consideramos también la necesidad de enfrentar los riesgos reales y actuales que la degradan y amenazan. Y esto requiere construir un Plan de Desarrollo de la Amazonía Peruana con la participación de los pueblos indígenas, dueños ancestrales de los bosques amazónicos.

The Internet is flooding with positive comments towards Peru and support of tourism to take advantage of the nomination. Few mention the indigenous peoples that protect the rainforest, nor the problems that the Amazon rainforest is facing due to the lack of a solvent, comprehensive and responsible development plan.

Were those who are now celebrating outraged when on April 28, 2010, a supreme decree from the government of Alan García –which still hasn't been repealed– declared the construction of 20 hydroelectric plants in the next 40 years in the basin of the Marañón river, in the Peru's northern Amazon, a matter of “national and social interest”?

It's not my intention to spoil the celebration, but I think that this appreciation of the Amazon would be more authentic, complete and real if we also considered the need to face real and current dangers that degrade and threaten it. This requires coming up with a Development Plan for the Peruvian Amazon with the participation of the indigenous peoples, the ancestral owners of the Amazon rainforests.

A post on Faunatura in November 2008, identified [es] the Amazon's main problems:

- La falta de recursos de los gobiernos de los países que comparten la selva.
– Los saqueadores que son los que se encargan de la deforestación y extracción de recursos vegetales y especies animales, contaminación del agua – y medio ambiente porque además provocan incendios.
– Las Multinacionales que por explorar riquezas minerales (Petróleo, metales, minerales, gas natural…), desequilibran la ecología.
– La invasión masiva de inmigrantes que llegan diariamente a colaborar con el ya existente saqueo .
– La ausencia de leyes protectoras de la selva, y si existen esas leyes, no se cumplen.

-The lack of resources from the governments of the countries that share the rainforest.
-The looters who are responsible for deforestation and the extraction of plant resources and animal species, water pollution – and the environment because they also cause fires.
-The multinationals that in the name of exploring mineral resources (oil, metals, minerals, natural gas…) unbalance the ecosystem.
-The massive invasion of immigrants that arrive daily to collaborate with the looting.
-The lack of laws that protect the rainforest, which if exist are not being enforced.

In San Martín, another Amazon region, citizens are also concerned [es] about what their local government is doing to protect the rainforest, as Diario Voces explains:

Si es que fijamos nuestra atención en el Gobierno Regional de San Martín encontramos contradicciones increíbles. Mientras que algunas instituciones se encargan de cuidar las áreas naturales protegidas, también existen otras que invierten grandes sumas de dinero en la construcción de carreteras y puentes que ayudan a que la migración de agricultores avance y con ella el tráfico de tierras y la agresión contra el bosque.

If we focus our attention on the Regional Government of San Martin we find incredible contradictions. While some institutions take care of natural, protected areas, there are also other institutions investing large sums of money in building roads and bridges that help advance the migration of farmers and with that the traffic of lands and the aggression against the rainforest.

On the Internet one finds several videos on tourism in the Amazon, like one [es] by PromPerú [es] about Loreto. Another promotional video [es], also by PromPerú, showcases Peru's Selva Central (Central Rainforest), a particularly beautiful area. Also about Iquitos, a television reportage [es] shows common places and stereotypes on the city's nightlife.

This video with images of the Peruvian Amazon region Madre de Dios, produced by Generación Verde MDD [es], illustrates the dangers that are threatening the rainforest in this area:

Finally, this video by Alerta Perú [es] denounces contamination in Andoas, in the northern rainforest of Loreto:

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

Thumbnail and featured image of the Amazon River, Iquitos, Peru, by Jake G. used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

Post originally published on November 17, 2011, in Juan Arellano's personal blog [es].

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