LIMA – An indigenous group named Wampis, who possess an autonomous territory in part of the Amazon forest, submitted a formal claimed to Peruvian government authorities against the state owned oil company.

In their complaint, the groups states that the company, known as Petróleos de Perú or simply PETROPERÚ, is guilty of negligence and failure to contain the oil spills that happened on January 25  in the Imaza district and February 3 in the Morona district, subsequently reaching the Wampis territory as well as several other indigenous communities and endangering their lifestyle.

The group claims that PETROPERÚ is responsible as the spill is a consequence of deterioration of pipelines, something that could have been avoided with proper maintenance. The oil has already reached bodies of water and soil that provide essential subsistence to the indigenous communities of the region.

Workers from the state owned company are working around the clock in an attempt to lessen the impacts of the spill, using plastic buckets to try and remove oil from the waters of the rivers. That effort, however, is simply not enough to protect the local flora and fauna, and is only a small step to try and prevent more damage from being caused.

This situation has brought to light once again the precarious scenario in Latin American countries when it comes to environmental responsibility and accountability. Even actor Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted about the case saying: “3,000 barrels of oil spilled in the Amazon! Act for indigenous communities and our climate”.

The government of Peru has already declared a state of emergency to at least 16 indigenous communities that live in the area affected by the oil spill.

This disaster is not the only one to hit South American countries in the past couple of months. In November 2015, a breach in the Mariana dam caused toxic mud to spill over in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The sill reached on the country’s most biodiverse river, Rio Doce, and destroyed it completely. At least 19 people were killed and several communities were affected. So far, no one was held accountable for the disaster.

– Julia Baldanza, Correspondent (Latin America)