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Hardt o breathe
Lower Chira Valley produces etanol despite people’s lungs.

By FACTORTIERRA.NETCambia a español.

LA HUACA, Peru – The ethanol industry seems to be bringing more problems than bennefits to Lower Chira Valley.

Beginning with a controversial sales agreement that became to involve Regional Government of Piura’s (GOREPI as in Spanish) top officials, going through vinase spreading like science teacher
Simon Garragate undisclosed, La Huaca (pronounce “La Waka”) Districts’s population (Paita County, Piura State) started to claim of sugarcane stubble burningsome years ago.

Including the few visibility what became to produce a car accident with casualties, people are claiming the procedure puts their health on risk although they could not prove it clinically.

Lower Chira’s ethanol comes from sugarcane, crop that is being internationally displaced by less polluting alternatives like jatrofa (
Jatropha curcas), bush what grows almost wild across Piura and even used as fence for farms.

The two companies initially operating the business were Maple Ethanol and Empresa Agrícola del Chira. The first one bankrupted and sold its assets to Grupo Gloria, one of the Peru’s five more powerful renaming it as Agroindustrias Aurora. The second one has divided in two companies at least, according to GOREPI, for controlling each phase of biofuel production - Caña Brava being the most remarkable.

During a long time it was belief Maple was related to vinase waves, those became to spread in
Sullana Metro Area, about 20 km to the East from its plant. In its own, Caña Brava has been involved in many accidents by trucks carrying its raw production – persons and donkeys had died under their wheels plus stubble burning.

Several times, companies promised before GOREPI and population the burning was going to disappear, although they did not specify when exactly. Inclusive, there are claims about the water they use to irrigate their fields is leaking to neighbor properties becoming to flood.

During last Summer, where Caña Brava has its plant,
Ignacio Escudero District (Sullana County) people protested because ponds it uses had been almost overflooding due to constant rains.

Controlled burning?
Companies have not recognized responsibility but they accused their suppliers over those they deny much control. Plus, it has been recently revealed they can make something called controlled burning, as it is featured on their Programs of Adequation to Environment (PAMA as in Spanish), a legal tool discontinued two decades ago to be replaced by environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

For GOREPI’s Natural Resources Office, the term
controlled burning and PAMAS are a true enigma, so they are going to request an explanation to Ministry of Agriculture, what seems to allow them.

Ofice’s manager Ronald Ruíz noticed that EIA first versions the term
controlled burning is not mentioned neither featured anywhere because there is already technology for undoing residues, undergrowth and pests persistent after sugarcane cutting off.

In their hand, population has accused ethanol industry for polluting the air. Penal Code of Peru’s article 304
th defines it “… that infringing laws, rules or allowed maximum limits, provocates or make downloads, spreadings, toxic gases spreading, noise spreading, leaks, sheddings or polluting radiation in the atmosphere… will be repressed by jail not less than four years, not more than six years, and 100 to 600 fined days.” (Translation is ours.)

And the trick comes in two levels: setting legally allowed limits and, once gotten, being on the right time and place with a previously legally validated monitor and proefficient experts who survey (also an attorney).

In practical terms, it implies having a technical-legal crew available around the clock to attend inmediatly just reported a burning. And if detected and not to be dismissed, an Express court order what allows to intervene private property just in ccase, what complicates much more any legal repression trial, so giving tranquility to population.

People’s throat
If simultaneity and speed seem to fail on this issue, an alternative could be studying effects once proven they are linked to sugarcane stubble burning.

In 1991 and 1992, Yolanda Hernandez conducted a study
on people nearby sugarcane cropfields in Aragua State (Venezuela) where it was also burned after cropping. She found a relative connection between the procedure and prevalency of bronchitis, asthma and neumonia, what did not allow her to link totally cause to effect but actually left several indications those could be validated in long term.

Add to that objection, Piura’s ethanol industry could allege Aragua State is mostly mountains and cold weather with 25°C average temperature and populations living between 300 and 1000 meters altitude, in valley lowlands, what allows to concentrate smoke particles more efficiently.

Lower Chira surface is mostly flat without significant elevations. 40 to 60 meters altitude range, 28°C average temperature. Aragua Could look like Quiroz or Upper Piura Valleys for good, but less hot.

However, all influence area’s health posts must have an updated record of acute breathing infections per year and specified by epidemiologic weeks. Adding to data verification, medical Experts Could be alert before breathing ways inflamation, cough, difficult breathing and bronchuses or lung alveoluses and lobes obstruction.

The problem is although GOREPI and La Huaca Municipality have summoned a multi-sector teamwork board to solve the issue, Piura’s Regional Bureau of Health neither Luciano Castillo’s Under-Regional Bureau of Health do not appear anyway.

FACTORTIERRA.NET learns that GOREPI ignores if Health officials have those updated medical records.

Board is joinned by Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Production, Special Bureau of Environmental Watchdog, La Huaca Municipality, Peru’s Ombudsman Office, GOREPI and communitarian leaders.

Inclusive, Peru’s Ombudsman has considered this issue inside its national list of social-environmental conflicts, and seems to be working closely to Environment Attorney’s office.

Meetings were announced on June 13
th, 14th and 23rdto request for definitions, ddraw an action course, distribute responsibilities and see if, in the end, La Huaca people’s noses can breath cleaner and fresher.

With reports by Radio Cutivalú and el Regional de Piura.
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