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Catastrophe: Oil Spill in Perú Causes Enormous Environmental Consequences

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

On January 15, 2022, an underwater volcanic eruption in the South Pacific led to a tsunami in Tonga and tsunami warnings in countries all over the world, from the United States to Japan. In Perú, however, a tsunami warning was not issued by the Navy even though neighboring countries like Chile did and several floods had been reported across the country.  The combination  of the volcanic eruption and the lack of action by the government would cause one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s recent history. 

An oil tanker operated by energy and a petrochemical company called Repsol was harshly hit by the waves at La Pampilla Refinery, located north of Lima. As a result, the tanker spilled over 264 000 gallons of crude oil along the country’s Pacific coastline. This catastrophe had horrific effects on both the coast’s species and the people who live and work nearby. The spill caused a rich diversity of marine fauna such as seals, fish, and different types of birds to be entirely covered in toxic oil, forcing them to arrive at the shore for help. Animals were not the only ones affected as hundreds of fishers who work in these poor coastal areas were left with nothing left to labor with. Repsol, the company responsible for this disaster, has failed to take full responsibility and even refused to give accurate information when it was most needed by reporting only seven gallons to authorities and claiming that the “accident” was contained! Undoubtedly, this delayed efforts to repair the damage.

The real tragedy here is that this is not a unique event. In Perú, the careless administration by both private companies and the government as well as the culture of impunity have put thousands of species into danger. In fact, from 2000 to 2019, 474 oil spills occurred just in northern Peru.  This is especially worrying considering that Peru is one of the few megadiverse countries in the world, housing more than half of the world’s terrestrial, biological diversity and such a wide variety of ecosystems that range from mountains to rainforests. 

Perú, it’s time to do better. We need to protect our species and our people’s livelihood and homes. However, that can only be done with effective action by the government and by holding companies accountable. 

Alison Hog

Columbia Barnard '25

Alison is a Peruvian freshman at Barnard College who intends to major in Political Science. You can usually find her binging Netflix shows, watching rom-com movies, or obsessing over Taylor Swift.
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