Law declares the construction of roads in border zones and the maintenance of dirt roads in the region of Ucayali (peruvian amazon) a priority and national interest
On Monday, January 22, 2018, after not having been decreed by the President of the Republic within the established period, Law 30723 was published in the Official Gazette, whose only article states: “The construction of roads in border zones and the maintenance of dirt roads in the region of Ucayali declared a national priority and interest, under the unrestricted respect for natural protected areas and the indigenous peoples that inhabit it”.
The effects of highways in the Amazon
Law 30723 arose from the initiative of the Fuerza Popular Congressman Glider Ushñahua (April 4, 2017) which stated that the region of Ucayali lacks development due to the absence of communication routes, such as roads, that would integrate the various districts to the border areas and open a sustained national and international trade, which would lead to the well-being of its population.
However, historically, it has been demonstrated that due to its particular environmental and social characteristics, the construction of dirt roads in the Amazon is not usually cost efficient, nor effective to truly promote local development. Instead, it often leads to a series of irreversible social and environmental impacts, including: deforestation, soil erosion, illegal hunting and fishing, invasions and land trafficking, displacement of populations and consequent conflicts – and even, the most severe of all – the endangerment of Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACI, for its Spanish acronym), a highly vulnerable population.
Connectivity must be sustainable
Undoubtedly, the development of the population of Ucayali should be a priority for all Peruvians, not only for local citizens. However, for this to happen, the fact that the region is characterized by high natural and cultural diversity must be considered. It houses 3 National Parks and 2 Communal Reserves, and has 3 Indigenous Reserves created exclusively for the protection of highly vulnerable PIACI groups: Murunahua, Isconahua and Mashco Piro.
In this scenario, it is worrisome that throughout the process of promulgation of the Law in question no deep economic, environmental analysis has been conducted; neither an analysis of the social implications that a norm of this nature entails. Nor have the warnings and recommendations of politically and technically relevant sectors such as the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation been taken into account, which would truly enable a regional vision of development with a focus on sustainability and respect for the human rights of the PIACI.
True development must respect fundamental rights
In that sense, WWF not only expresses its concern about the publication of Law No. 30723 but also calls on the different State actors to have this standard reviewed and analyzed exhaustively regarding its implications, taking as a framework national and international regulations and, above all, regarding respect for the fundamental rights of the PIACI. Finally, we invoke debate and proposals of viable alternatives that lead to a genuinely sustainable development for the Ucayali region.
Photo: © André Bärtschi / WWF