Drug Traffickers Pollute and Deforest Peruvian Coca-Producing Valley

By Dialogo
August 25, 2010

Polluted rivers and increasing deforestation are the consequences of drug trafficking in the chief coca-producing valley of the southeastern Peruvian jungle, placed under military control due to the presence of remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla group.

The panorama is cause for concern, since every year from 7,400 to 8,000 hectares are degraded by drug traffickers in the Valley of the Ene and Apurímac Rivers (VRAE), out of 34,072 km2 in the swathe of jungle that runs through four departments in the center and south of the country, the authorities affirmed.

“Animal and plant species of great economic value are being lost,” said Fernán Valer, secretary of a government program aimed at encouraging alternative crops in the VRAE, in place of coca leaf, the raw material for the production of cocaine, speaking to the foreign press, which visited this region of the country by government invitation.

The problem is accentuated by the fact that chemical substances, such as sulphuric acid and ammonia, among others used to produce the drug, are disposed of in the water sources and rivers of the region, the official specified in Pichari, a district of the VRAE in the department of Ayacucho.

This pollution, Valer indicated, has caused increased illnesses among the people of this broad valley, such as anemia, hepatitis, typhoid fever, and others that especially affect the children of the Asháninka, an Amazonian ethnic group, who live in the region.

Coca fields in the VRAE have jumped from 14,300 hectares in 2003 to 17,486 hectares last year, an increase of 455 hectares of coca cultivation per year, Valer noted, on the basis of data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Most recently, the traffickers have turned to the “use of agricultural chemicals and phytohormones” that modify the coca plants, in order to make them more resistant to pests and diseases and also in order to obtain up to four crops a year, Valer indicated.

Peru is estimated to produce 304 tons of cocaine a year, putting it in second place behind Colombia.

“Seventy-six percent of this drug comes from the VRAE, where it has generated an underground economy with a volume of 880 million dollars a year,” Valer emphasized.

The VRAE is the home of 330,000 people engaged in agricultural activity, but “the sad part is that quite a large percentage of this population focuses its activities around planting coca,” the government official admitted.

“We are all conscious of the fact that the blemish of drug trafficking has to be eradicated by the reason of force or by the force of reason,” Valer maintained. “The armed forces make it possible to give confidence to the population and tighten the screws on the drug traffickers, who maintain an alliance with Shining Path in order to sow chaos,” he added.

Narco-terrorist is the word coined by the government to define the alliance between drug traffickers and the groups considered remnants of the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path, who use the jungle of the VRAE as one of their refuges.