More than 10 indigenous ethnic groups are being threatened by a wave of mercury contamination in the Amazon.
A situation that especially jeopardizes the lives of children and pregnant women in these communities, who suffer from diseases such as acute respiratory deficiencies, among others.
The death of an indigenous child dusted off this situation. The four-year-old did not survive an intense poisoning that doctors diagnosed at the hospital in Uyacalí, a city in eastern Peru. From there, the medical personnel carried out tests until they discovered that 82% of the indigenous community in the region has elevated levels of mercury in their bodies that are above healthy.
Pollution is spread by means of the Dotted Speck (Zungaro zungaro), a fish whose body is capable of accumulating the mercury it acquires from the environment.
The Nahua Indians are part of an ethnic group in initial contact who live in the Kugapakori-Nahua-Nanti territorial reserve, where they live solely from hunting and fishing in the tributaries of the Mishagua River, explains the newspaper La Vanguardia de Barcelona.
According to the Ministry of the Environment, mining in the area dumps 40 tons of mercury into these rivers every year, and has destroyed more than 100,000 hectares of rainforest. This is how mercury enters the waters of the river that the indigenous people drink, and of the fish that constitute a fundamental part of their diet.
Luis Aponte, a doctor who lives in Ucayalí, explained that more and more indigenous people are attending the hospital with severe poisoning. But that the situation worsens in the cases of the Nahua because, being an isolated ethnic group, they do not have effective and rapid access to the health system.
A very delicate situation
Nery Zapata, national leader of the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (Aidesep) denounces that "contamination with mercury is extremely delicate for human health, due to its irreversible consequences, therefore the health authorities must influence investigations in order to stop the source of contamination against the original population ”.
The Government had known about this contamination since 2014, but did not take action until May 26, when it decreed a state of emergency in this region, which includes 11 districts with indigenous populations.
According to the Presidential Office of Peru, the 60-day working group will focus on guaranteeing the food security of the Nahua population to limit the consumption of the Mota Punteada fish and "carry out a comprehensive investigation that provides conclusive results on the polluting sources of mercury".
The way of the cross for these indigenous people began almost four decades ago, when in 1980 workers from an oil company entered the Nahua-Nanti Reserve, one of the most important protected areas in the world.
This first contact caused fatal diseases in almost 50% of the indigenous group. But this situation worsened when the Peruvian government approved the installation in the Camisea area, the largest energy project in the country with investment from Argentina and Spain.
The crisis spreads
The Brazilian health foundation Fiocruz together with the Yanomami Hutukara Association, the Brazilian NGO ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) and the Yekuana APYB Association published the results of a study that reveals how the indigenous people of 19 communities in Brazil are also suffering the consequences of mercury that invades its rivers.
The indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa made the complaint official before the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The results of the research showed that children and women of reproductive age present levels between 16 and 16 mg / g. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers that mercury levels above 6 mg / g present a high risk of serious health consequences.
The Yanomami are the ethnic group most affected by the presence of mercury in rivers, and they are considered one of the most vulnerable peoples on the planet.
In Venezuela the situation is similar. The Yanomami, the Yekuanas and four other minority ethnic groups are suffering from mercury poisoning.
In both countries, the responsibility lies with illegal gold prospectors.
Request The organization Survival International together with local organizations took different actions to denounce this critical situation.
Letter In a letter addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on health, Survival highlighted the failure of the American governments to combat this contamination.
Survival governments denounce that Peru, Brazil and Venezuela do not care about illegal mineral exploitation.