- In indigenous lands, forest loss is significantly lower than in other areas and regions of the Amazonian countries
- Landmark “Pact from Madre de Dios” strengthens rule of environmental law in Peru, safeguarding indigenous rights and lands and advancing conservation
- Pope Francis to visit and address current threats to the Amazon’s indigenous communities and ecosystem health
In December, the Peruvian Government and members of Peru’s civil society signed a landmark agreement to increase and improve access to environmental justice and strengthen the rule of environmental law in Peru, particularly for indigenous communities. This month, the pact will be in the international spotlight when it is formally presented to Pope Francis during his visit to Puerto Maldonado, the regional capital of Peru’s Madre de Dios region. The Pope will travel through Peru and Colombia, bringing attention to the plight of indigenous men and women and the consequences of deforestation.
A threatened trove of biological and cultural diversity
With its exceptional diversity condensed into a little more than 30,000 square miles, Madre de Dios is a microcosm of the Amazon’s broader biological and cultural diversity. With more than four million square miles of forest cover, the Amazon claims the richest biodiversity and most extensive rainforest habitat on Earth. It is home to 30 million people, at least 300,000 of whom are indigenous. Approximately 56 percent of the Amazon is now designated as some type of protected area or indigenous land. The Amazon provides critical resources and ecosystem services to local people and national societies and holds global importance regulating and maintaining Earth’s climate.
But in Madre de Dios, as in the region as a whole, many of these natural resources and ecosystem services are under threat. In recent decades, Madre de Dios has seen a spike in in illegal gold mining. This spike has contributed to the loss of more than 123,000 acres of forest and widescale pollution of rivers and river-dwelling species, including fish and other sources of subsistence for the communities who reside in the area.
According to the Indigenous Federation of the Madre de Dios River and its Tributaries, Madre de Dios has been occupied by diverse ethnic and cultural groups for some three thousand years. In recent years, these communities have been witnessing unprecedented environmental degradation in their own and neighboring territories. Indigenous peoples of the region issued a joint statement in 2015, leading up to the Paris Conference of the Parties: “We believe that Madre de Dios region can be a source of change in the regional vision of the Amazon Basin,” they said, “with international recognition as the most important provider of ecosystem services in the region.”