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  • Writer's pictureWorld Half Full

Peruvian court upholds right to healthy environment


In March, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Peruvian government responsible for violating the rights of residents of the town of La Oroya to a healthy environment. It was the first ruling of its kind before the court. Pollution from a mine and smelter complex is so bad in La Oroya that a study by Peru’s Ministry of Health in 2005 found that 99.9% of children under six years of age who were tested had high lead levels in their blood.

Some 80 residents, including 57 children, initiated the case. Not only was the government responsible for allowing serious health harms caused by mining and smelting — particularly in children and the deaths of two residents, one of whom was 17 years old — it also found that the affected families didn’t receive adequate health care and that the government had failed to investigate harassment and threats against victims who had publicly spoken out against the harms caused.

The court ordered the government to provide free health care for victims; pay compensation for the harms they experienced; assess and clean up the contaminated areas; and continue to monitor air, ground, and water quality, among other measures.

La Oroya has been described as a “sacrifice zone” — among the most polluted and hazardous places on earth, leading to a systematic violation of human rights.

ABOVE Children at play in La Oroya, Peru, where the smelter seen in the background is blamed for poisoning locals, especially children


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