Washington - World Wildlife Fund urges two U.S. taxpayer supported banks to withhold support for the controversial Camisea Pipeline project in Peru. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Export-Import Bank of the United States are scheduled to vote soon on more than $300 million in loans for the project. Their votes will have far-reaching impact, both in Peru and beyond, setting a precedent for the condition of pipeline financing in the future.
"This is not a question of opposing development," said Kathryn S. Fuller, president of WWF-US. "But the Camisea project as now designed, unnecessarily threatens a fragile marine reserve."
The Camisea project would carry natural gas from deep in the Amazon rain forest to the Peruvian capital of Lima, and to a new port along the coast. The present site of the proposed port and a liquid gas fractionation plant, Playa Loberma, is of particular concern to WWF because it is located in the buffer zone of the Paracas National Reserve where an accident or spill would have untold consequences.
"This project should not go forward unless the plant and port are relocated to a less fragile area of the coast where they would pose less risk to the Paracas reserve's internationally recognized biodiversity, as well as to the local fishing and tourism industries," said Guillermo Castilleja, WWF's vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean program. "Public input and stringent environmental impact analysis should be integral parts of the relocation decision."
Peru's recent request for designation of the Paracas marine habitats as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, now pending before the International Maritime Organization, cites shipping of hydrocarbons as a leading threat to the region's ecology.
"We find it difficult to square Peru's stated concern with siting a hydrocarbon shipping facility less than four miles from the boundary of the reserve. Given the possibility of serious - even catastrophic - underwater spills, and the close proximity of the terminal to highly sensitive marine habitat, the current site poses an unacceptable risk," continued Castilleja.
"For more than a year, WWF and 22 Peruvian civil society groups recommended specific alternatives to the Peruvian government, IADB and the Ex-Im Bank that would have resolved the outstanding issues over the Camisea project," added Castilleja. "Those calls landed on deaf ears."
Few regions along the South American coast are as ecologically valuable or biodiverse as the Paracas Reserve. The Reserve is listed under the Ramsar Convention and has been recognized as a "Site of Hemispheric Importance" by the International Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. It contains critical feeding and resting areas for migratory birds. Scientists estimate that at least 100,000 wading birds spend the night at the reserve during the height of migration.
The reserve is particularly important because there are few other adequate resting and feeding sites for migratory birds along the Peruvian coast, and the populations of most of these species are significantly declining globally.