The Peruvian Government approved by supreme decree No. 007-2016-MC the creation of the first three indigenous reserves in Peru for Peoples in Isolation and Initial Contact (Piaci): Murunahua (470,305 hectares), Mascho Piro (816,057 hectares) and Isconahua (298,487 hectares). All three are located in Ucayali, an Amazon region in southeastern Peru.
The approval of the reserves comes after a 10-year wait, when the Law of Indigenous Peoples in Isolation (Law No. 28736) was published in 2006.
These three reserves were created because it was identified that there were human groups that had not developed sustained links with the rest of society or that, having done so, had chosen to discontinue them, Patricia Balbuena, deputy minister of intercultural affairs, told Mongabay. “In order to design these areas, studies were made that we worked with the regional and local authorities. The multisectoral commission met for many days to discuss the reports and then there was approval of the reserves that give these protected areas a higher category,” she explained.
In these new indigenous reserves, which will protect some 2,000 people, according to Balbuena, the Isconahua, Mashco Piro, Mastanahua, Murunahua and Chitonahua peoples live in isolation. Also living there are the Amahuaca people, in a situation of initial contact, and a people in isolation whose ethnic origin has not yet been identified.
“An indigenous reserve allows you to implement intersectoral management instruments between different levels such as health, environment, culture and other agents that together can develop management plans and committees to protect the Piaci from what threatens them,” WWF Peru’s Conservation Officer Johana Deza Grados told Mongabay.
The threats to which isolated peoples are exposed are numerous. One of them has to do with their potential exposure to some diseases. “Contact with outsiders puts them at risk because they are biologically highly vulnerable. With the creation of the reserves, work must be done with the health sector and with the communities that border the reserves, a sort of sanitary cordon, so that there is no contagion from outsiders to the Piaci,” says Deza.
The forest in which these villages live is constantly exploited by illegal loggers and miners, so the inhabitants are also vulnerable to the expansion of criminal activities. “In the Murunahua-Isconahua reserve in the Ucayali region there is the threat of illegal logging. A month and a half ago an operation was carried out in which more than 100 logging camps were disrupted with tractors and trucks,” says Deputy Minister Balbuena.
Indigenous Organization Demands More Reserves
The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (Aidesep) sued the Ministry of Culture on July 13 for the long delay in approving five more indigenous reserves. Among them are the Cacataibo Indigenous Reserve, on hold since 1999; the Napo-Tigre Indigenous Reserve, on hold since 2003; the Tapiche-Blanco-Yaquerana- Chobayacu and tributaries Indigenous Reserve, on hold since 2003; the Kapanahua Indigenous Reserve (Sierra del Divisor Occidental), on hold since 2007; and, the Yavarí-Mirín Indigenous Reserve, on hold since 2008.
According to Aidesep anthropologist Beatriz Huertas, in charge of the lawsuit, the failure to approve the reserves means a lack of protection for the indigenous people. “The lawsuit is about the failure to comply with the law on Piaci regarding the establishment of the five indigenous reserves requested in its favour, some of which have been on hold for almost 20 years,” Huertas said.
“We would have liked Aidesep to have informed us in advance. The creation of the new indigenous reserves does not depend on the vice-ministry, but on the multisectoral commission. They determine whether there are enough elements for the creation. We do the previous studies of recognition so that they serve as input to the intersectoral commission, then the approval is from the central government,” responded Balbuena.
According to the deputy minister, in the second half of 2016, the intersectoral commissions of the various regions will meet to discuss the creation of these five reserves.