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Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus, an area affected by fracking licences. Photo: Neil Palmer / CIAT for CIFOR on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, near Manaus, an area affected by fracking licences. Photo: Neil Palmer / CIAT for CIFOR on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).
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Brazil to auction Amazon fracking licences

The Ecologist

6th October 2015

Brazil is about to auction hundreds of fracking blocks across the country - extending deep into the Amazon forest including the territories of remote and vulnerable indigenous peoples. Registered bidders include BP, Shell and ExxonMobil.

With fracking, the new threats faced by these communities will include the contamination of their surface and groundwater sources with toxic and carcinogenic substances, air pollution, fragmentation of forest ecosystems and impacts to fauna.

The Brazilian government is to put 266 fracking blocks across 16 states up for auction tomorrow, 7th October.

The areas chosen encompass Brazil's main groundwater aquifers, areas of high agricultural productivity, Amazon rainforest, and important conservation areas such as Abrolhos, Bahia, a marine nursery for humpback whales.

Companies from 17 countries - including BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Rosneft, Petrobras, Statoil, Premier Oil, GDF Suez, Total, Anadarko, 37 in all - are registered to bid.

Some of these blocks even reach into indigenous territories within the states of Acre and Amazonas, at the Valley of Juruá, Serra do Divisor and Acre's Javari Valley in the extreme west of Brazil.

Bordering Bolivia and Peru, Acre is home to numerous indigenous peoples who migrated to the remote area after conflicts with drug traffickers, miners, loggers and oil exploration in their original territories in Brazil and neighbouring countries.

The Javari Valley encompasses the largest clusters of isolated indigenous peoples on record in the world, amounting to 77 groups. Known as the 'last frontier' for its lush and unspoiled nature, its indigenous tribes include the Nawa, Nukini, Puyanawa and Hunu Kui peoples.

Indigenous peoples must be protected from oil industry

The recently formed Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil (COESUS) is calling for the fracking industry to be kept firmly out of indigenous territories, whether or not formally recognised. "They maintain a relationship of harmony and respect for nature, and now fracking threatens their very existence and cultural heritage", said a spokesman.

"With fracking, the new threats faced by these communities will include the contamination of their surface and groundwater sources with toxic and carcinogenic substances, air pollution, fragmentation of forest ecosystems and impacts to terrestrial and aquatic fauna, soil infertility for agriculture and livestock, as well as direct harm to their health in the form of cancer, severe neurological and heart problems and birth malformations. Where there is fracking, earthquakes are also known to occur with increasing frequency and intensity."

COESUS members recently travelled for over ten hours on a boat  in the Moa River that cuts through the Serra do Divisor National Park, held meetings in Nawa, Nukini and Puyanawa villages, and also visited the Huni Kui - Kaxinawa people.

According to COESUS, "For six days, the indigenous people were informed of fracking's real threat to their survival and their ancient culture. Now their leaders are organizing to launch a broad protest movement to the decision of the Brazilian government. They are eager to fight fracking."

However the Brazilian government is telling people that fracking is so safe that there is nobody opposing it across the world. International groups and fracktivists are preparing to show them that the global movement against fracking is alive and kicking in Brazil.

Rubber boom survivors - no more exploitation!

The Nawa are one of the indigenous groups whose land has yet to be designated. Residing mostly on the right bank of the Moa river, their territory is currently in process of being identified and delimited - even though the people, comprising 306 individuals, filed their land claim in 2005.

The Puyanawa, another indigenous people of the Javari, have good reason to be suspicious of extractive industries after their terrible history of suffering in the 19th and early 20th century 'rubber boom', which saw their territories invaded by rubber barons serving the booming export industry.

Luiz Puyanawa said: "We know that these rivers that flow beneath us, those where we float in trees, if such a business happens, they will be contaminated. Let Nature be happy, so we can also be happy. If it is not a good thing, which will bring life and prosperity, if it will destroy, keep it away!"

Many Puyanawa were killed in clashes or from new diseases, then the survivors were enslaved and forced to work as rubber tappers. Dispossessed of their lands, they were also catechized and educated in schools that forbade the expression of any trace of their culture.

The Nukini, a Pano speaking people inhabiting the Juruá Valley, share the history of devastating expropriation and violence carried out by the rubber extraction enterprise. Their territory is currently part of the most important mosaic of protected areas in Brazil and the world, being adjacent to the Serra do Divisor National Park.

COESUS was founded in September 2013 by 350.org Brazil and partners including environmentalists, scientists, geologists, hydrologists, engineers, biologists and public officials. COESUS works with the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), local governments and communities informing the indigenous groups of the threat that fracking represents.

The National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) and the Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation and Biodiversity (ICMBio) have also supported the efforts of COESUS.

 

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