LIMA – Organizations representing peasants and family farmers across Peru staged an event on Wednesday to demand that the government address threats posed to the water supply by pollution and large-scale agribusiness.
Some 200 activists made a ceremonial offering to Yaku (water in the indigenous Quechua language).
The participants lit candles and small bonfires in a concentric circle and shared coca leaves, corn, beans, fruit, and the Andean brandy known as pisco among themselves and with interested members of the public.
All of the rivers in the northern region of Cajamarca are “totally polluted,” peasant leader Yanet Carhuajulca told EFE.
“There are children with lead in the blood” and people active in the struggle for access to safe water suffer “physical and psychological mistreatment,” she said, referring to the six activists who have died in protests against Newmont Mining’s initiative to extract gold from the massive Conga deposit.
Carhuajulca criticized the government for granting mining concessions in Cajamarca, accusing the companies of “destroying our mountains” and polluting the rivers.
An official from the department of Human Right and Environment in the southern region of Puno said that conditions were also bad in her part of the country.
“All of the rivers and basins of Lake Titicaca are contaminated by illegal mining and the solids in the waste water,” Yolanda Flores told EFE.
She blamed government policy for exacerbating the situation by allowing individuals and companies to claim ownership over water sources that had previously been open to all.
Conflict between communities over access to water for irrigation are already frequent in Puno, Flores said.
Small farmers in the valleys of the Pacific coast region of Ica are being hurt by export-oriented agribusiness concerns that tap into underground aquifers, the head of a grassroots group in Ocucaje province said.
The activity of the exporters is threatening residents’ traditional irrigation practices and authorities ignore the complaints of locals, Jaime Achin Vasquez said.