World Rainforest Movement

Peru: Government intent on privatizing the Amazon for implementing tree plantations

Alan Garcia’s government is promoting a bill (draft law 840) also known as the “Forest Law.” It is a law concerning the promotion of private investment in reforestation and agro-forestry, whereby land with no forest cover in the Peruvian Amazon – erroneously classed as deforested wastelands, meaning there are no acquired rights over them – could be allocated, not as concessions, but as private property. This would open the door to major capital to establish large-scale tree plantations, under the guise of “reforestation.”

The argument used is that in order to promote reforestation, private investment needs to be attracted and security must be given to the investors. For this purpose, it is not enough to give them a 40-year, renewable concession as established in the present Forestry Law, but allocate them land as “owners” that is to say, for ever. Furthermore, when the State allocates land under ownership it can no longer control or make demands in the same way as if it were under concession.

There is strong resistance to the bill, among other things because it is contrary to article 66 of the Constitution, which establishes the public nature of renewable and non-renewable natural resources.  It has also been denounced that no preliminary land survey has been made to delimit the extension of deforested lands that could be invested in, or their location. This fact would enable the new law to become a perverse incentive to encourage deforestation and lay waste the Amazon.

Furthermore, in Loreto (as in Ucayali or in Madre de Dios) there are no large areas of free deforested wasteland areas according to an article published by Servindi (1). The article points out that “the traditional slash and burn agricultural model used by the peasants implies leaving fallow for 10 to 20 years land that is “tired”, to enable a process of secondary forest regeneration and to recover soil nutrients. Most of the secondary forests in regeneration in Loreto have owners, although these may not have deeds.” Another factor is that “out of the almost 2,500 indigenous and peasant communities existing in Loreto, less than 500 have deeds and the rest has no documentation whatsoever certifying their ownership rights over farms and forests they use and have used for hundreds of years for their subsistence.”

The First Amazon Summit meeting was held on 17 February in Pichanaki, Junín, where, among other things, the rights of native communities over lands in the Central Forest and in the Amazon were proclaimed and the “intention of Alan Garcia’s Government to auction off our Amazon in favour of large foreign capitals” was rejected (2).

The Second Amazon Summit was held in Pucallpa, Ucayali region on 12 and 13 March. On this occasion the “Platform of the originating Amazon peoples before the Peruvian State and the international community against a single centred world” was re-launched (3). Among the items on their action plan is the demand to “definitively shelve the Legislative package that contains the Draft Forest Law,” because “with this Bill the intention is to dispossess us of our territories and the natural resources of the Amazon. We therefore demand that our own initiative of community development as a people is taken into account, and not to discriminate against us in favour of big capital.”

Many demonstrations and strikes took place in the central forest zone, in rejection of law 840. In March this year, in the web page of “Con nuestro Perú” (with our Peru) it was reported that “several thousand indigenous people from the Shipibo, Konibo, Ashaninka, Yine and Cocama peoples marched through the main streets of the city of Pucallpa to ask the Peruvian State to shelve the 840 Bill and the 2133 Bill or Forestry Law. This peaceful march, that was considered to be one of the largest indigenous demonstrations that had taken place in the region, was joined by students, professional people and indigenous mayors.”(4).

Servindi reports that (5), the Romero group is behind the government’s initiative and has ten million dollars to purchase 2 million hectares of land in the Amazon as soon as the Bill is adopted. Part of the two million hectares would be dedicated to carbon sink plantations with the aim of trading carbon on the New York stock-market under the Kyoto Protocol Mechanism. Some of the beneficiaries would be pension fund administrators, specific power groups and high officials of the present government.

As stated at the First Amazon Summit, “We declare the Amazon to be in a state of emergency because of the danger hanging over our peoples and we call on each one of the Amazon Regions to prevent the consummation of the violation of our human and constitutional rights, the right to life and to the environment, to the biodiversity of our water and energy resources.”

Article based on information provided by Alain A. Salas Dávila, ONG INCODES, e-mail: ongincodes@malko.com, www.malko.com./ongincodes;

(1) “Ley de la Selva y Desarrollo Regional” (Forest Law and Regional Development), José Álvarez Alonso, Servindi, http://www.servindi.org/archivo/2008/3346;

(2) First Amazon Summit, 16 and 17 February 2008. http://www.wrm.org.uy/paises/Amazonia/Cumbre.pdf;

(3) Platform of the originating Amazon peoples before the Peruvian State and the international community against a single centred world. http://www.wrm.org.uy/paises/Peru/Pueblos_Originarios_Amazonia.pdf;

(4) Ucayali Indigenous peoples march against the Forest Law, 20 March 2008. http://www.connuestroperu.com/index.php?option=
com_content&task=view&id=1681&Itemid=32
;

(5) Peru: ¿Por qué es criticado el Proyecto 840, “Ley de la Selva”?(Why is Bill 840 “Forest Law” criticised?) , January 2008, Servindi, http://www.servindi.org/archivo/2008/3332