A second hydrocarbon boom threatens the Peruvian Amazon: Trends, projections, and policy implications

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    The Peruvian Amazon is home to extraordinary biological and cultural diversity, and vast swaths of this mega-diverse region remain largely intact. Recent analysis indicates, however, that the rapid proliferation of oil and gas exploration zones now threatens the region's biodiversity, indigenous peoples, and wilderness areas. To better elucidate this dynamic situation, we analyzed official Peruvian government hydrocarbon information and generated a quantitative analysis of the past, present, and future of oil and gas activities in the Peruvian Amazon. We document an extensive hydrocarbon history for the region - over 104 000km of seismic lines and679 exploratory and production wells - highlighted by a major exploration boom in the early 1970s. We show that an unprecedented48.6% of the Peruvian Amazon has been recently covered by oil and gas concessions, up from just7.1% in2003. These oil and gas concessions overlap17.1% of the Peruvian Amazon protected area system and over half of all titled indigenous lands. Moreover, we found that up to72% of the Peruvian Amazon has been zoned for hydrocarbon activities (concessions plus technical evaluation agreements and proposed concessions) in the past two years, and over84% at some point during the past 40years. We project that the recent rapid proliferation of hydrocarbon zones will lead to a second exploration boom, characterized by over 20 000km of new seismic testing and construction of over 180 new exploratory wells in remote, intact, and sensitive forest areas. As the Peruvian Amazon oil frontier rapidly expands, we conclude that a rigorous policy debate is urgently needed in order to avoid the major environmental impacts associated with the first exploration boom of the 1970s and to minimize the social conflict that recently led to deadly encounters between indigenous protesters and government forces. © 2010 IOP Publishing Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number014012
    JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


    • Amazonia
    • Indigenous peoples
    • Natural gas development
    • Oil development
    • Peruvian Amazon
    • Protected areas


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