Madre de Dios is known for its biodiversity. However, part of its territory has been devastated and the rest is in danger, mainly due to illegal miming. Can this and other almost endemic problems that afflict the Amazon region be placed on the agenda, with Pope Francis’ arrival? Will the State prioritize public policies to counteract these issues?
By Meylinn Castro
Servindi, January 18, 2018.- When the arrival of Pope Francis in Puerto Maldonado , capital of Madre de Dios was confirmed, Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, vice president of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference (CEP, in Spanish) said that the visit to this area would happen as it is considered a "symbol of the indigenous and Amazonian peoples".
At that time, Monsignor Cabrejos Vidarte said that social and environmental issues also motivated the Supreme Pontiff to make this trip. He said, "As we all know, the Pope published the encyclical encyclical Laudato Si , which is precisely the care, the invitation to the responsibility that we all must have with our sister nature".
During the Pope’s stay in Puerto Maldonado -programmed for January 19-, he will hold a meeting with more than a 100 native communities from Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It is estimated that approximately 3,500 faithful, mainly composed of indigenous delegations, will attend the Madre de Dios Regional Coliseum.
With the arrival of the Holy Father a few days away and the anticipation for his speech, we share five truths that describe the current situation of Madre de Dios. A reality that should not only be known by the Pope, but by all Peruvians.
1.The Capital of Biodiversity
On May 21, 1994, the Congress of the Republic declared Madre de Dios as the “Biodiversity Capital of Peru . This is due to the variety of flora and fauna species existing in the more than 85 thousand square kilometers (km2) of its surface.
Much of the biodiversity of this region, located in the southern jungle of Peru, is reflected in its natural protected areas]. The Tambopata National Reserve, the Manu National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve are some natural scenarios. They represent more than 8 million hectares in total.
These natural areas are important because of the great diversity of ecosystem services that they provide us. Within these are a water supply for human consumption and climate change mitigation, as indicated by the National Service of Natural Protected Areas by the State (Sernanp).
2.Eight Native Peoples Inhabit the Area
The guardians of all the biodiversity in the region are mainly the indigenous peoples. Of the 55 indigenous or native peoples that are recognized in Peru, eight of them live in the territory of Madre de Dios. These are the Amahuaca, Ese eja, Harakbut, Iñapari, Shipibokonibo, Yine, Mashco Piro and Matsigenka.
The last two mentioned are officially denominated as Indigenous Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACI) because they have not had contact with other members of society because they have decided not to do so or some have begun an approximation process.
By depending on the resources offered by nature -fishing, hunting and gathering-, the PIACIs are in a situation of vulnerability due to continuous threats and aggressions to their environment.
Additionally, ignorance of the rules that guarantee the protection of their territories and the right to decide on their future. Without a recognized identity, and without proper mechanisms for dialogue, the PIACI have little chance of protecting themselves and are at the mercy of multiple attacks on their habitat.
3. 90% of Mining Is Illegal
Despite its vast wealth, the territory of Madre de Dios is in constant deterioration due to a series of problems. One of these is illegal mining. In this Amazonian zone, 90% of mining is illegal or informal, according to the book La realidad minera en los países amazónicos (The reality of mining in the Amazonian countries) published by the Peruvian Society of Environmental Law (SPDA).
This activity generates negative impacts on environmental, human and socioeconomic health, causing the deforestation of thousands of forest hectares and contamination of water sources. This is how, the basic condition of life of the Amazonian populations is impaired.
Only in "La Pampa" -located between kilometers 87 and 130 of the Interoceanic Highway in Madre de Dios-, deforestation caused by illegal mining has increased 725 hectares between August 2014 and July 2015.
4.The Third Region with the most Human Trafficking Reports
More than a year ago, an eye-opening video from the Center for the Promotion and Defense of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (Promsex) caused the indignation of the population. Under the #NoMásNiñasInvisibles, the harsh reality of the trafficking of women and girls that live in the area known as "La Pampa" was revealed.
Trafficking commonly occurs in the vicinity of mining centers, camps and invasions. The victims are captured in multiple ways: de múltiples formas: deceptive job offers, kidnapping, buying and selling people or through social networks. Madre de Dios is the third region with the most reports for human trafficking in Peru.
The women in "La Pampa" are exploited, their workday exceeds 40 hours per week, and they are sexually under the threat of punishment. 36% of them had an abortion at some point. The same percentage does not have the Integral Health Insurance (SIS).
5.Domestic Violence High Rate
In 2015, 35.5% of the women of Madre de Dios reported having suffered physical violence and 9.2% suffered sexual violence by their partners, according to the report Gender Diagnosis in the Amazon 2017 prepared by the Women and Family Commission of the Congress of the Republic.
The high rate of family violence is added to the fact that it is considered normal. "43% of women who suffered physical violence did not report it as they did not consider it necessary and 13.4% did not want to cause greater complications to the aggressor," says the report. These figures represent the highest in the Amazon.
For a few months now, the State is very aware of the preparations to receive Pope Francis. It is estimated that more than 37 million soles have been allocated to the visit (almost 12 million dollars) of the so-called 'environmentalist Pope'. Can this issues be placed on the agenda, with Pope Francis’ arrival? Will his speech be linked to the fight against illegal mining, human trafficking and gender violence? Will the State prioritize public policies to counteract these problems? We will know soon.