By 2026, Peru’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the travel and tourism sector will have far exceeded the current inflow contribution of 11%.
But, The World Travel and Tourism expresses its concerns over the local government’s lack of sustainable action against the rapid destruction of its natural resources.
The Depletion of the Amazonian Treasure
The most frequented Peruvian destination is the Amazon, but the Tambopata National Reserve (TNR), which is a 274,000 hectare haven for biodiversity, is rapidly losing its assets to illegal gold miners surrounding the reserve.
Also a part of Madre de Dios region, the TNR is home to a record-breaking collection of birds, butterflies, amphibian, fish, mammal, and reptile species. But, according to the current statistics from the local government, the 8000-strong miners still upset the balance in the region.
The Environment Ministry says there is a lot of potential for the Peruvian’s rich natural assets. But, as long as illegal activities continue to flourish in the area, the Amazon’s potential will not be realized.
Top Peruvian Activist Claims
Victor Zambrano, president of the TNR Management Committee and environmental activist, states that gold-mining is the largest contributor to the deforestation in forestry of the Amazon region.
The Guardian reports that in 2012 alone, over 50,000 forest lands have already been irreversibly corrupted, and the surrounding bodies of water all have traces of mercurial poisoning in them. The report does not include the thousands of lives exposed to human trafficking, exploitation, and forced labor to satiate the illegal mining industry in the far stretches of the Peruvian Amazon.
A Limited Cry for Help
The local government recently issued a two-month long “State of Emergency” across the affected regions in Madre de Dios to address the widespread mercury poisoning and systemic contamination in the area.
But, this attempt was extremely limited considering that 40% of the population are already affected by the wastewater chemicals.
“[It’s] a serious attempt to address a desperate problem, or political theatre intended to undermine one of the two candidates, Keiko Fujimori, standing in the presidential election subsequently held on 5 June — [it’s] absurd: too short a time period, too little budget, too big an area included, no attempt to stop the mining, and declared at a totally inopportune moment with one government on its way out and another coming in,” explained Zambrano.
Contested State of Peru’s Tourism Industry
Despite the apparent repercussions of the unregulated mining activities, the Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado (SERNANP) stands by its beliefs that the mining activities won’t affect the growing tourism industry in the country.
The main actions taken by the local authorities involve destroying the mining machines and reprimanding the illegal miners caught in the act. But, Zambrano merely dismisses this action. “They are more public relations than anything and claiming the miners have found numerous ways to protect themselves – including buying off members of the authorities to not destroy their equipment,” he says.