New Research Points to Vast Deforestation in Peru

New research by the Lima-based Instituto del Bien Comun, a non-governmental organization that promotes indigenous rights and environmental stewardship, has found that 1.42 million hectares (3.5 million acres) have been deforested in the Peruvian Amazon.

The Peruvian Amazon Map 2014 said that about 25% of the land that has been cut down was on indigenous territory and protected natural areas, daily Gestion reported.

According to the report, the pressure of logging and farming is being made on forests that are fundamental to mitigating the effects of climate change.

“The conservation of Amazonian forests in Peru requires efforts to improve the management of indigenous territories and protected natural areas that are articulated in initiatives that seek a change in the paradigm of the national development model,” said the executive director of the Instituto del Bien Comun, anthropologist Richard Smith.

The vast area of Peruvian territory that lies east of the Andes mountains  spans a total of about 78 million hectares in the Amazon rainforest.  Sparsley populated in comparison to the coastal regions, and despite creating several key natural parks and reserves, the government has for the most part considered the territory remote and open to development, failing to control logging, mining and other activities such as cocaine trafficking.

Illegal logging is a decades-long problem in Peru, although it has increased in recent years by manipulating permits and areas of legal operations. The World Bank reported in 2012 that 80% of the lumber coming out Peru’s Amazon forests is felled illegally, while the Public Ombudsman’s Office has found that 66% of the legally established lumber companies are involved in the illegal exports.  In October this year, the United States offered support to stem the illegal logging industry.

Indigenous communities are often left to fight the encroachment of illegal loggers on their land in the absence of the state in remote areas of the rainforest. As a result, activists have faced deadly consequences. The recent murder of four Ashaninka indigenous leaders in Ucayali allegedly at the hands of illegal loggers brought the issue to the fore.

Peru’s largest indigenous group, Aidesep, environmentalists and human rights activists say that the government could help indigenous people protect their land by providing them with property titles.

Although indigenous Amazon communities have received land titles since the 1970s for over 10 million hectares, there are still may communities who have not gained recognition of their territories and government concessions for mining, oil and logging frequently overlap their boundaries.

The Instituto del Bien Comun said that the combined surface of native communities and indigenous reserves in Peru’s Amazon totaled 14.5 million hectares, or about 18.5% of the country’s rainforest.

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