Tension is mounting in one of the remotest regions in the Peruvian Amazon over plans to build a highway through the country’s biggest national park
The Alto Purus park is inhabited by at least two ‘uncontacted’ tribes, one of which was photographed on a beach in the park five years ago.
Carlos Tubino Arias Schreiber, a congressman from the Fuerza 2011 party, has been promoting the need for the highway in Peru’s Congress, in what has become an increasingly aggressive publicity campaign.
‘In Purus the monkeys and plants have more rights than human beings,’ he stated on 18 November last year after a visit to the region. ‘The national parks have cut it off.’
But plans for the highway have drawn fire from environmental and human rights groups concerned about its potential impact on the rainforest and the ‘uncontacted’ tribes living there. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which helped set up the park in 2004 and now supports its ongoing protection, calls it ‘an area of incredible biodiversity’ covering ‘some of the most pristine forests in the southwestern Amazon’ and home to jaguars, monkeys and pink dolphins.
‘There are only a handful of places left in the world as biologically and culturally important as Peru’s Alto Purus,’ said Chris Fagan from the Upper Amazon Conservancy (UAC), an NGO working in the region which released a damning statement about the highway on 7 January. ‘To cut it with a road would compromise the integrity of the entire basin and trigger the swift demise of some of the last isolated hunting and gathering tribes on earth.’