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WCS: Scientific report reveals serious weaknesses of the Waterway EIS

The sampling periods of the Biological Baseline (between May and August) would not allow to clearly identify the presence of important ecological processes (...) such as the reproduction of species of zúngaros (Siluriformes) that starts at the beginning of the flooding season (December to March).

Servindi, August 23, 2019.- The Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the Amazon Waterway project has serious weaknesses because of incomplete and inaccurate information on the conditions of the physical, biological and social environment

This is supported by a scientific report  from the Wildlife Conservation Society  (WCS), a non-governmental organization that has been working in Peru for 50 years preserving the wildlife and natural Amazonian landscapes.

The report states that the impact identification is not solid and requires technical and scientific support, representative information and other elements to provide support and credibility to the EIS.

The project will be executed through a concession contract over a 20-year period, and it has generated enormous concern about the potential environmental and social impacts that it could cause on the four most important rivers of the Peruvian Amazon.

Especially, considering the social importance of rivers as a source of food and economic income for nearly 100,000 Amazonian families.

In addition, the intervention area of the waterway project corresponds to one of the most diverse areas in types of aquatic and semi-aquatic habitats in the western Amazon.

Background weaknesses

Part of the "background weaknesses" derive from the enormous difficulty of measuring impacts on flow ecosystems that are very dynamic and the absence of historical studies that allow understanding the ecology of flooding rivers and forests.

This factor is delicate and risky because it implies "that it is not possible to model future impacts by the recurring dredging that the project foresees throughout the 20 years of the concession."

The consequences would directly affect the great biodiversity currently exists there, and that is a primary source for the food for the indigenous and riverine populations.

The lack of consistency of the EIS is such that mitigation measures are reduced to monitoring actions, which seek to "verify evidence of impacts" for possible future actions. "This way of presenting things is not consistent with the objectives of an environmental impact study," says the WCS regarding the EIS prepared by the company ECSA.

Access the full report by clicking on this link: Analysis of the Environmental Impact Study of the Amazon Waterway project (PDF, 77 pages)

Cultural Impacts

The document has more than 50 observations, and pays attention to the cultural impacts of the project considering the high presence of indigenous communities with a culture closely related to the rivers and their resources.

The main observation is that the EIS does not have an adequate methodology to interpret and evaluate the impacts on the cultural systems of the more than 400 communities present in the scope of the project.

WCS suggests applying specific methodologies that allow responding to: how would the way of life of indigenous populations change because of the project? What will the process of adaptation to the changes in the environment be like?

The dredging in question

The report expresses special concern for dredging, one of the most worrying interventions of the Amazon Waterway project, considering that it is the first project with this kind of infrastructure in Peru.

 Another gap concerns the lists of plants, fish, invertebrates and larvae, birds, terrestrial fauna, herpetofauna, insects, plankton (organisms that live in the riverbed), periphyton (organisms that live attached to surfaces), and nekton ( organisms that live in the water column) that are dissociated from a discussion about the impacts that dredging could cause.

It observes that the biological sampling was carried out at inappropriate times to record migratory events and aquatic reproduction. This limits evaluating the direct impact of dredging to the organisms and habitats studied.

"The sampling periods of the Biological Baseline (between May and August) would not allow to clearly identify the presence of important ecological processes (...) such as the reproduction of species of zúngaros (Siluriformes) that starts at the beginning of the flooding season (December to March).”

WCS identifies a set of aspects as potential effects of dredging and that have not been specifically evaluated. Among these is the effect in the reproduction and feeding areas of fish and other aquatic organisms, in the species of fish that migrate locally and regionally, and in the consumer and commercial fisheries.

It is also necessary to measure the effects of dredging on the survival of larvae, fry and juveniles, on the quality of water for organisms or human consumption, on the stability of river channels.

In addition, the effects of dredging on the exposure of pollutants that have been found at the bottom of the river and on the behavior of the "Mijano" are missing.

In conclusion, the EIS presents a serious difficulty in defining and quantifying the “simultaneous” impacts of dredging, which prevents foreseeing future scenarios. In this way, it ends up “becoming a serious problem for the possible approval of the EIS d”.

Recommendations

The WCS report identifies gaps in the information aimed at ensuring that the project does not damage the environmental sustainability of Amazonian ecosystems and generates benefits for local communities.

Therefore, it concludes with a set of recommendations, among which the need to develop a baseline study protocol that differentiates projects in land areas and river areas is highlighted; thus, understanding the functional relationships between natural processes and the components of the ecosystem, and proposing an ecological differentiation of the areas to be intervened.

This differentiation is very important considering the transition between these two types of natural environments, and the forest-water relationship, which is inseparable, and changes dynamic every year should be taken into account.

It also recommends properly identifying the aquatic habitats and the floodplain in each of the identified mistakes or gaps, and strengthening the projection of impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

 

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