Monitoring Impacts of Hydrocarbon
Exploration in Sensitive Terrestrial
Perspectives from Block 78, Peru
Jorgen B. Thomsen
Joseph R. Donnaway
In 1996, Conservation International (CI) and Mobil Oil Corporation entered into a partnership to explore ways of improving “best practices” for energy development in sensitive terrestrial ecosystems. The impetus was, on the one hand, the fact that Mobil was in the process of acquiring an exploratory oil concession in an area where CI had been involved for some time in participatory conservation planning, and on the other hand, the recognition that the system of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and social impact assessments (SIAs) was not necessarily enough of a safeguard in an area of high biological and social complexity. The system of impact assessment is generally required by law but is often seen as a one-off activity that focuses on construction activities and microlevel alteration of the landscape. CI and Mobil felt that an ongoing and long-term evaluation or monitoring of environmental and social impacts at the ecosystem level was required to ensure that the area's ecological and social integrity was upheld.
The CI-Mobil relationship has since taken the form of a series of structured and unstructured dialogues focusing specifically on oil exploration in the Peruvian Amazon. Toward this end, CI, has designed a project aimed at developing an ecosystem-based ecological and social impact monitoring system for oil exploration activities in what is known as Block 78, a rain forest area of 1.5 million hectares superimposed on the ecosystem of the Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone (TCRZ) and sandwiched between the Bolivian border and the border of Peru's Manu National Park. This project has become known as EISA, from its Spanish acronym.