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'No' Vote Could Offer New Life to Camisea Project

WASHINGTON - A "no funding" vote in this week's anticipated decision by the Inter-American Development Bank could bring the government of Peru and sponsors of the controversial Camisea pipeline project back to the negotiating table, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

"This is the last real opportunity to save the project by keeping it from causing real harm to the people and environment of Peru," said WWF President Kathryn S. Fuller.

"We recognize that this pipeline is important to the economic development of Peru, but approval of IADB funding now could shut the door to fixing problems that make the pipeline a potential ecological disaster," Fuller added.

Project supporters are seeking more than $300 million in US taxpayer funding for the Camisea project. Current plans call for extraction of gas from the Peruvian Amazon and sending it through a new pipeline over the Andes to an export terminal to be constructed in the buffer zone of an extremely fragile marine reserve.

Voting last week to reject the project in its current form, the Export-Import Bank took note of the proposal's serious environmental flaws. The Ex-Im Board cited its own environmental and social guidelines prohibiting the use of US taxpayer dollars to fund projects that are needlessly destructive to the environment.

"The bank's directors showed courage in upholding what should be a high standard for projects like this. They reaffirmed US leadership in ensuring that environmental and social concerns are addressed whenever large projects like Camisea are proposed," Fuller said. "Now, the IADB has a chance to do even more. This project should go forward only if its backers consent to some clearly feasible, already identified changes that would mitigate the environmental damage."

First on WWF's list of needed changes is relocation of the pipeline terminal and proposed liquid gas fractionation plant well away from the sensitive Paracas National Reserve. The marine reserve is acknowledged to be one of the most biologically important areas on the South American coast. A spill or other mishap there could have devastating consequences for the reserve and dependent fishing and tourist industries.

"Government and industry supporters of the current plan need to be willing to address its problems," Fuller added. "WWF and Peruvian civil society groups have offered suggestions for fixing those problems, but to no avail. An IADB vote against funding would make the government and industry listen. Then, we're willing to do our part."