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Oil and Gas Fears for the Amazon

Aug 27, 2008
Two non-profit organisations in the United States, alongside the private research Duke University in North Carolina, have spent the last three years monitoring the actions of gas and oil companies in the western Amazon, and have now completed a comprehensive map covering the area that shows the alarming extent to which the corporations have plans for commencing their destructive trade in their area.

The study identified 180 "blocks" that have been ear-marked for oil and gas exploration, an area that stretches 170 million acres, an area just smaller than that of oil rich Texas. Understandably, these findings have caused a huge amount of concern that the businesses are instigating a plan to begin operating in this delicate, bio-diverse portion of the world. The threat to wildlife and indigenous people is obvious, and the report found that many of the oil and gas blocks overlie areas of the greatest ecological wealth, meaning that any activity in the area would come at the cost of species that are already under threat, amphibians for example.

Environmentalists should be under no illusions as to the amount of pressure that businesses can exert on areas that have been in theory protected from their activities. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is an example of an area that was recognised as being environmentally vulnerable, was defended through legislation and has still found itself under the avaricious eyes of the Bush administration and their oil drilling friends. When president calls for congress to authorize oil prospecting in a wildlife refuge, you realise that the measured, protective legislation put in place to guard environmentally valuable areas is all to easily brushed aside for the immediate plans of big business.

This study fond that the highest concentration of these 'blocks' were concentrated in the most pristine areas of the Amazon, and that even the world famous national parks contained within, such as Bolivia's Madidi National Park, were earmarked for exploration. Overall, the study found that there are a total of 64 'blocks' in the Peruvian Amazon, covering around 121 million acres or 72% of the total land. Peru, like many other developing, Amazonian countries, has been driving toward increasing its hydrocarbon exploration in its own borders, although it is not currently allowing such activities in its national parks.

The report focused on the impact that road building would have on these remote, potted havens of biodiversity. As well as destroying the rainforest beneath their path, roads make previously inaccessible areas easily accessible to human influence, including illegal loggers and poachers. Illegal logging is already a major problem in the vulnerable Amazon, where the sheer scale of the area makes effective policing very difficult. It is estimated that illegal logging accounts for around half of all logging globally, and would be devastating to a developing Amazonian country as it would cause a loss of biodiversity without bringing any of the economic benefits to the country as a whole due to the loss in tax revenue.

The report went on to highlight the huge impact that opening up these secluded areas of jungle would have to the indigenous people who currently inhabit the area. Many of these communities would be extremely vulnerable to disease brought in from the outside world, and there is a concern that traditional cultures and ways of life would be placed under threat through coming into contact with people from outside the forest.
About the Author
Martin Gavin is a writer for the green camparison website ecoswitch
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