Recent oil spills in Peru have caused more than 3,000 barrels of crude oil to pollute the local water systems, two rivers in the Amazon basin are now affected.
The oil has polluted two rivers that at least eight indigenous communities rely on for water, the government and indigenous leaders said.
According to BBC, the rivers act as a main water source for at least eight indigenous tribes in Peru and a 90 day water quality emergency has been declared by the government.
About 5,000 people from the Suashapea, Pakunt, Chiriaco, Nuevo Progreso, Nazareth and Nuevo Horizonte indigenous communities have been hit the worst by the spill.
The government-owned oil company, Petroperu, has promised to clean up the spill. The company said the first leak was triggered by a landslide but the cause of the second rupture was unclear.
The oil has poured into the Chiriaco and Morona rivers in northwestern Peru, the government’s environment watchdog, OEFA, said.
The spill is affecting the Achuar community and heavy rains have hampered efforts to contain it, local indigenous leader Edwin Montenegro said.
Reuters reports that Petroperu has even gone as far as paying children to do the dirty work for them.
Petroperu president German Velasquez has denied reports the company had paid children to clean up the thick sludge.
However, Mr Velasquez said he was considering firing four company officials, one of whom may have allowed children to collect oil.
The company was evaluating the 1970s-built pipeline to prevent future spills, he said.
Peru’s health ministry has declared a water quality emergency in five districts and OEFA officials said Petroperu could face fines of up to $17m (£12m) if the spills were found to have affected local people’s health.
In a statement, OEFA said the spills were “not isolated cases” and ordered the company to replace parts of the pipeline and improve maintenance.
The leaks have stopped the transportation of up to 6,000 barrels of oil a day.
The Indigenous Rights Working Group of Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinating Body has reported that a third oil spill occurred in the territory of the Wampis of Muyuriaga community earlier this month. This new spill has affected more than 3,500 people.
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