Environmental impact of coca cultivation and cocaine production in the amazon region of Peru


Coca and deforestation
Coca and soil erosion
Crop cultivation and water contamination
Basic cocaine paste and water contamination
Ecosystems and genetic resources


Pages: 37 to 53
Creation Date: 1992/01/01

Environmental impact of coca cultivation and cocaine production in the amazon region of Peru *

M. DOUROJEANNI Professor, The National Agrarian University, Lima, Peru, and Chief of the Environmental Protection Division, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, D.C., United States of America


Little or nothing has been written about the environmental consequences of the cultivation of coca and the production of basic cocaine paste. Nevertheless, there is much evidence that both activities have a severe and irreparable impact on the ecosystems in which they are carried out. This chapter describes the situation in the Peruvian Amazon, discusses the consequences of these activities, and recommends measures to improve current conditions.


The genus Erythroxyloncontains close to 250 species, some 200 of which are native to the tropical americas. However, only two South American species account for all of the cultivated coca plants: E. coca Lam and E. novogranatense (Morris). Each of these species has two varieties: E. coca var. coca, and E. coca var. iapdu; E. novogranatense var. novogranatense and E. novogranatense var. truxillense [ 47] . The variety coca is cultivated in the Upper Jungle of Peru; the variety ipadu (epadu) is cultivated in Brazil and, to a lesser extent, in the Lower Jungle of Peru (Loreto). The coca crop grown along the Peruvian coast is E. novogranatense var. truxillense. In 1964, this variety covered 160 hectares along the coast and 650 hectares in the sierra [ 13] . The other variety of E. novogranatense is cultivated in Colombia. Before Plowman's clarifying remarks [ [ 45] , [ 46] and [ 47] ] there was some confusion about these varieties, and this is reflected in the works of Bues [ [ 8] and [ 9] ] and others. During the last two decades, Machado [ [ 28] , [ 29] , [ 30] and [ 31] ] and Ferreyra and Tovar [ 24] have carried out several botanical studies on the genus Erythroxylonin Peru. Machado [ 29] identified four cultivars of E. coca. In the sections that follow, reference will be made only to the two varieties of E. coca, especially to E. coca var. coca, which will be referred to henceforth as coca.

*This paper was first published by the Centro de Informacin y Educatin para la Prevencion del Abuso de Drogas (CEDRO) in Frederico R. Len and Ramiro Castro de la Mata, eds., "Pasta bisica de cocaina: un estudio multidisciplinario" ('Basic cocaine paste: a multidisciplinary study") (Lima, CEDRO, 1989). UNDCP wishes to thank CEDRO for permission to reprint the article. It is the standard policy of the Bulletin on Narcotics to publish only original works, but an exception was made in this case, as the paper is an authoritative and detailed account of a region facing critical problems.

In order to evaluate the ecological impact of coca, some familiarity with the extension and location of the coca fields is required. Unfortunately, besides some evident facts, available information is scarce and confusing. What is obvious is that coca cultivation is many times greater than official statistics show, and that it is now concentrated in the departments of Hu;inuco and San Martin, rather than in Cuzco, which was previously the largest coca-producing region.

In 1964, the crop covered 16,360 hectares, of which 9,230 were located in La Convenci6n Valley in Cuzco. Following in importance was Hunuco, with 4,000 hectares, La Libertad, with 940 -hectares, and Ayacucho, with 850 hectares [ 13] . San Martin was not included in the statistics at the time. In 1960, Cuzco produced 59 per cent of all coca in Peru [ 18] . This distribution was similar to that described by Bues in 1911 [ 8] and which he and other authors confirmed in 1935 [ 38] . However, some authors were already pointing out that the department of Hunuco had better ecological conditions for coca cultivation than did Cuzco, and that the coca leaf produced there was of better quality because of its higher alkaloid content [38 and 57].

Until around 1965, official statistics on coca production coincided with reality. Afterwards, a divergence developed that has continued to grow to almost comic proportions. Nevertheless, in 1979, these official statistics did reveal the decreasing role of Cuzco in coca production. At that time, only 7,877 hectares were planted to coca, while Hunuco had 5,320 hectares and San Martin 1,137 hectares. In 1979, ENACO reported only 17,916 hectares in the entire country [ 25] . Maletta and Makhlouf reported 19,330 hectares of coca in 1981, based on official estimates.

The distortion in the official information became evident when other government documents [ 23] pointed to the existence of 12,000 hectares of coca just in the area of the Upper Huallaga Special Project. In the early 1980s, Aramburu and Bedoya [ 3] reported approximately 30,000 hectares of coca in Huallaga, two thirds of which was planted in the project area. According to the FDN/USAID study [ 23] , the principal coca-producing areas were Tingo Mara, Uchiza and Aucayacu.

Therefore, according to official data from United States sources, there might have been 150,000 hectares of coca planted in Peru, 70,000 hectares of which were located in the departments of Hunuco and San Martin. Rumrrill [ 52] referred to a 1980 report of the Peruvian Senate that recognized the existence of 50,000 hectares of illegal coca cultivation in the country. Cortazar [ 15] indicated that there were 100,000 hectares planted to coca in San Martin (Tocache and Uchiza). However, the directors of the Frente de Defensa de los Intereses del Pueblo de Tocache reported in 1986 that there were 195,000 hectares planted to this crop in Upper Huallaga [ 52] . Marcelo [ 34] reported estimates (from unrevealed sources) of 40,500 hectares in the province of Leoncio Prado (Monz6n, Tingo Mara, Aucayacu, La Morado) and of 33,000 hectares in the provinces of Tocache and Mariscal Caceres. However, Marcelo stated that these estimates were low, and offered 160,000 as a more realistic estimate of the extension of coca fields in the three provinces. To add to the confusion in the available literature, the Ministry of the Interior declared in 1987 that 380,000 hectares of coca existed [ 13] , although the Minister later rectified this information.

From the information mentioned above, which certainly does not include all the literature on this subject, it is highly probable that at least 150,000 hectares and possibly as much as 380,000 hectares of coca exist in the country. The most probable estimate is more than 200,000 hectares. This figure coincides with the results of a surface area evaluation of legal and illegal coca production. The lack (or concealment) of precise information is surprising for such an important topic, even more so because obtaining it is technically simple, given the availability of sophisticated remote sensing equipment.

If a realistic estimate is about 200,000 hectares, this means that the illegal cultivation of coca is almost 10 times greater than is the legal, and that it is by far the most widely grown crop in the Peruvian Amazon region. According to official statistics compiled by Maletta and Makhlouf [ 32] , in the early 1980s there were 160,000 hectares of corn, 62,700 hectares of banana, and 44,500 hectares of rice planted in the Peruvian Amazon. While the author of the present work believes these figures are too low [201, the pre-eminent role of coca is obvious. Maletta and others [ 42] reported the existence in the jungle of 666,668 cultivated hectares, divided as follows: permanent crops (223,976 hectares); transitory crops (270,219 hectares); pasture (172,243 hectares); and reforested land (230 hectares). Illegal coca production represents close to 30 per cent of the cultivated land and is equivalent to 80 per cent of permanent legal crops in the region.

Coca and deforestation

The first and most obvious impact of such widespread coca cultivation is the deforestation of several hundred thousands of hectares, most of which are located in areas unfit for agriculture. The deforested areas include: land currently planted to coca (more than 200,000 hectares); land used by the coca producers for subsistence farming, where they plant manioc, bananas, corn and other crops; land that is abandoned after soil becomes infertile; land deforested by the peasants who leave the areas dominated by drug traffickers and terrorists; land deforested by the coca producers who are dispersed as a result of political violence; and land on which landing strips (of which more than 100 exist at any one time), laboratories and camp-sites are built. Based on detailed studies of land use in Upper Huallaga, such as those by Aramburu and Bedoya [ 3] , Aramburu [ 2] and Bedoya [ 6] and [ 7] , among others, it can be safety assumed that in the Amazon region, deforestation resulting directly and indirectly from coca cultivation has reached close to 700,000 hectares since the early 1970s, when coca production increased significantly.

- If this figure is accurate, then coca alone is responsible for 10 per cent of the total accumulated deforestation in the twentieth century in the Peruvian Amazon. Total deforestation in the region is currently estimated at some 7 million hectares, according to Malleux [ 33] , Dance [ 16] and Dourojeanni [ 20] and [ 21] . Since the 1970s, coca production has played an increasingly significant role in land deforestation.

Deforestation, especially in protected lands and those appropriate for forests, has severe environmental repercussions, including: the loss of soil through insidious or violent erosion; extinction of genetic resources; alteration of the hydrologic system; increased flooding; reduction in hydropower potential; difficulties in water transport; reduction in hydrobiological potential; and lack of wood, timber, food etc. The almost mandatory burning of the debris left by deforestation brings with it other problems, such as air pollution, topsoil deterioration and the loss of soil nutrients.

Early authors [ 38] and [ 57] who described the agronomic aspects of coca had already recognized that the lands preferred for cultivation were precisely those that had been recently deforested. This preference was due to the greater natural fertility of deforested land and its absence of undergrowth, among other reasons.

Coca and soil erosion

In its first published report, the Agricultural Experiment Station of Tingo Maria [ 43] stated: "Although the method of coca cultivation has disastrous effects on the soil, comparable to those it has on humans, cultivation is quite extensive because coca is the permanent crop that provides the most economic benefits in the region". For at least four decades, then, the impact of coca cultivation on the soil has been recognized. More recently, Tosi [ 56] , Rios [ 49] and [ 50] , Penaherrera [ 41] and Sanchez [ 53] , among others, voiced similar concerns.

The highly erosive character of coca is due to the ecological zones in which it is planted, and current cultivation practices. Coca is cultivated in zones that Tosi [ 56] describes as humid, subtropical forest and extremely humid subtropical forest, among others, located between 700 and 2,000 metres above sea level. These zones correspond to the area known as the Upper Jungle, although coca also is frequently grown in the conditions of the higher elevation jungles ("ceja de selva"). The optimal altitude for cultivation is between 1,000 and 1,200 metres above sea level, where plants have a higher cocaine content [ 35] , and where rainfall levels vary between 1,000 and 4,200 millimetres annually, with averages far exceeding 2,000 millimetres. Rough terrain and steep slopes dominate this region. Steep slopes are preferred by growers because they provide good drainage [ 35] and [ 57] . Currently, coca is found up to the Padre Abad Forest, located deep in the subtropical rain forest. This forest has an annual rainfall of 6,000 millimetres. Ecologically, coca is located in some of the country's most fragile zones, several of which contain the least arable lands in the country because of their high levels of erosion.

Coca cultivation practices also encourage erosion. Preferred soils include: those composed of sandy clay, with good drainage; soil located on slopes of at least 45°, also to facilitate drainage; and those recently slashed and burned, in other words, stripped of all protective vegetation [ 8] , [ 9] , [ 19] , [ 35] , [ 37] and [ 57] . In addition, cultivation requires intensive weeding and tillage, which are done after every harvest, or three to six times a year. Weeding is performed by climbing the slope, clearing the vegetation with a shovel or pickaxes and then dragging the cut plants, along with part of the loose soil, down the slope [ 9] , [ 17] , [ 36] , [ 38] and [ 57] . In some cases, the top 15 centimetres of soil is removed [ 38] . It is in this way that the soil in the coca fields becomes stripped from the impact of rain. The eroded soil quickly turns into furrows and deep ditches. Although coca is cultivated in wells, the hitting up cancels out the anti- erosive effects of the wells.

Another cause of erosion, which combines with that described above, is the frequency of the harvests that are actually nothing more than a defoliation that further exposes the soil to rain drops and to aeolian erosion during the dry season. Normally, there are four harvests annually (see previously cited authors). The number of factors that combine to make coca themost environmentally dangerous cropin Peru istruly astounding. A summary of these factors is shown in table 1.

Table 1. Summary of the characteristics of coca cultivation that contribute to erosivity

Factor or characteristic


Ecosystems: high-altitude jungle ('"ceja de selva") and Upper Jungle
Ecologically, the most fragile region of the jungle
Altitude:. 700-2,000 metres. above sea level
Highly erosive soils
Topography very rough
Highly erosive soils
Rainfall: 1,000-4,000 millimetres per year x=2,000 millimetres per year
More rain, more erosivity
Planting on 45 slopes
With greater slopes, high erosivity
Preference for sandy clay soils
More erosion on slopes containing clay soils
Recently deforested soils and burned vegetation
Burning favours erosion
Planting without terraces, in shallow wells and in the direction of the slope
Favours erosion
Soil scraping to eliminate undergrowth, 4 to 6 times a year
Direct impact of rain and no obstacles to erosion
Defoliation (harvest), 4 to 6 times a year
Direct impact of rain
Elimination of undergrowth and defoliation simultaneously
Combination of previous factors
Abandonment of practice of using shade trees
Direct impact of rain
Removal of topsoil with
Loose soil, easily eroded

Sources:See text.

Additional information on this subject describes differences in current and past practices. Several authors [ 19] , [ 38] and [ 57] have stated that coca was cultivated in deep wells, in which the plantlets (either sown or transplanted) were placed in soil that did not reach the level of the well. For example, in Hunuco, wells measured 25 centimetres wide, by 30 centimetres long, by 80 centimetres deep. These were located in rows that followed the line of the steepest slope, with 60 centimetres between wells and 1.0 metre between rows, in order to facilitate scraping and weeding and to keep the wells from filling with soil in case of heavy rains [ 57] . Prior to the coca planting, another crop was planted, usually manioc, but sometimes cassava or corn, for the purpose of providing shade for the coca during the first months of growth [ 9] , [ 35] , [ 38] and [ 57] . This practice, which continues today, also reduced initial erosion. Additionally, it seems that coca was usually planted beneath the shade of the black white pacae (Inga spp.), which were planted in quincunx [ 35] 35 and [ 57] . This method was later used for planting coffee trees.

Traditionally, in La Convenci6n Valley and along the coast and other locations, coca was frequently planted on flat land and even irrigated [ 9] 9 and [ 38] . There is much evidence that in pre-Hispanic times, coca was cultivated in well-constructed stone terraces. This was a relatively common practice until the beginning of the twentieth century, as De la Guerra [ 18] and Pez [ 38] , among others, have pointed out. Pez reported that steps, terraces, or "tacamas" were constructed measuring 40 centimetres wide by 80 centimetres high, following the slope. The same author points out that this practice also occurred in Bolivia. Recent verbal and written data [ 55] confirmed that these terraces are still found in Bolivia and in Sandia, in southern Peru, and that the oldest coca fields of Monzn, in Hunuco, still show signs of this practice. The use of terraces, deep wells, crops associated with the initial phase of growth, and shade trees, demonstrate that in times past there existed knowledge of the erosive character of the coca crop and that measures were taken to avoid erosion.

The unscrupulous modern methods of coca planting earn coca the epithet '.the Attila of tropical agriculture' [ 49] . No other crop exists that provokes such widespread erosions. To insidious erosions, estimated at least at 300 tonnes per hectare per year [ 50] , are added violent erosive processes that culminate in catastrophes. Rock and mud slides in the Upper Jungle have caused thousands of deaths. The worst of these catastrophes occurred in the Chontayacu River valley in January 1982, and has been described by Penaherrera [ 41] . These phenomena also destroy the most fertile land and diverse infrastructure; they block transport routes, causing enormous losses in perishable products, and they cause severe water contamination.

Crop cultivation and water contamination

The coca plant competes with undergrowth for nutrients and is subject to several plagues and diseases, which may require biocides to control. In addition, like any other crop, coca may need fertilization. The application of biocides (in this case herbicides, pesticides or fungicides) is always harmful to the environment, whether to a greater or lesser degree. The application of fertilizers also has a negative impact on the environment. In the case of coca, these substances are used excessively because of the high profitability of the crops and farmer ignorance of the problems associated with their use.

While traditional cultivation practices call for the use of tools to remove undergrowth, modern farmers use herbicides to perform this task. Some of the commercially prepared herbicides contain chlorophen- oxiacete, which causes effects similar to those of the agent orange herbicide used during the Viet Nam conflict. The lethal effects of chlorophenoxiacete became evident recently in Brazil, when a huge number of fish died in the Mato Grosso swampland [ 39] .

Coca has phytosanitary problems beginning in the initial growth stages, when it is attacked by mole crickets (Gryllotalpaspp.), crickets (Gryllusspp.), beetle larvae (Ancistrosomaand others), and fungi (Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, Pythium). In later developmental stages, the crop is affected by foliage-devouring insects such as leaf-cutting ants (Atta cephalotes, A. sexdens, Acromyrmex hispidus), leaf worms (Pieris, Eloria noyesi, Eucleodora cocae) and red spiders (Tetranychus),and by diverse homopterous insects that suck the plant sap (Aspidiotus, Lecanium, Lepidosaphes, Coccus hesperidum, Pseudococcus, Saissetia coffeae, Tachardiella gemmifera). Plant stalks may be attacked by larvae of cerambycides (Trachyderes).There is abundant literature on these problems, which have long been considered serious [ [ 1] , [ 4] , [ 5] , [ 9] , [ 18] , [ 38] , [ 44] , [ 58] and 59. Plagues of leaf caterpillars, especially Eloria noyes, are also prevalent, particularly in Hunuco. These plagues were previously controlled by applying arsenates, which proved quite dangerous for anyone accustomed to chewing coca leaves. The coca foliage is also affected by fungus diseases such as "witch's broom" and Stibella flavida, Uredo erythroxili, and Hypochnus rubrocinctus [ 9] , [ 11] , [ 18] and [ 57] .

As far as this author is informed, most of the agrotoxins and fertilizers used in Upper Huallaga are applied in the coca fields. Farmers try to obtain larger yields by applying these substances in such large quantities as to reach the visible limits of phytotoxicity. The commercial agrochemicals known as Tiodan, Malation, Sevidan and Tamaron are commonly used but there are others. Also used are foliar fertilizers and synthetic radicle fertilizers available nationally. All of these substances reach the soil and end up in the rivers, where they affect marine life to a degree as yet unknown. The substances that are not washed away remain on the foliage that is used in the preparation of basic paste.

Basic cocaine paste and water contamination

The impact on the environment of the preparation of basic cocaine paste is incomparably greater than that of agrochemicals. During the process, air, soil and water are contaminated. Smoke pollutes the air when the coca leaves are dried in wood -burning stoves, the wood for which is obtained from the few forests that remain. According to Ros [ 49] , the absurdity in this is that farmers throw out the ash residue from the stoves and then purchase commercial fertilizers.

Soil erosion, which washes tonnes of sediment into the rivers, is an important source of contamination with severe repercussions for marine life. But most of the contamination of the soil and especially the water is produced during the processing of the leaves to extract alkaloids. According to Vila [ 57] , in 1935, sulphuric acid, carbide, and kerosene were used. Siegel [ 54] reports that in Colombia, alcohol, benzene, and sulphuric acid are used in a process that is completed with the addition of sodium carbonate to precipitate the raw or base cocaine. According to Marcelo [ 34] , the procedure followed in Upper Huallaga involves two steps, which he refers to as maceration and cleansing/pressing. Maceration is performed using 18 litres of kerosene, 10 litres of sulphuric acid, 5 kilograms of quick lime, I kilogram of carbide, and 5 kilograms of toilet paper for every 120 kilograms of coca leaf. For the cleansing and pressing, processors use 11 litres of acetone and 11 litre of toluol for each kilogram of basic paste produced.

Marcelo [ 34] , using the above information and his own estimates of coca leaf production for basic cocaine paste in Upper Huallaga, came up with an interesting calculation of the volume of contaminants dumped in the waters of the Huallaga basin. On the basis of an average production of 2,400 kilograms per hectare per year of dried leaf and of 160,000 hectares of coca in 1986, Marcelo calculated that the production of paste that year was approximately 6,400 tonnes. According to his calculations, this meant that in 1986, 57 million litres of kerosene, 32 million litres of sulphuric acid, 16,000 tonnes of quick lime, 3,200 tonnes of carbide, 16,000 tonnes of toilet paper, 6,400,000 litres of acetone and an equal amount of toluene were dumped into the rivers. Even if Marcelo's calculation is disputed, the figures are so overwhelming that their significance cannot be ignored. What is worse, several sources, including some television programmes, reveal that maceration is done in pools and streamlets. The 25 July 1987 edition of the newspaper El Comerciocontained a front-page interview with the mayor of Juanju, who denounced the contamination of the Huallaga River with sulphuric acid, acetic acid, ammonia and other substances used in the preparation of basic paste. These substances had been confiscated by the police in anti -drug - trafficking operations. The order to dump these substances in the river came from a judicial authority, revealing the inhabitants' profound lack of awareness of the risks of contamination.

Kerosene, although moderately toxic, severely affects the biology of water flora and fauna, especially of plankton. In addition, it reduces the oxygen supply. Sulphuric acid is extremely dangerous, as are all the other substances that are dumped, such as carbide, calcium carbonate, acetone and ammonia. Not even the toilet paper is innocuous. Entering through the upper part of the Huallaga Basin, it affects the food chain in the lower parts of the Basin and beyond. Many unsuspected compounds and recombinations of these substances are concentrated in certain marine organisms, and undoubtedly now reach humans. Because of the dumping of agrochemicals, fewer fish are available, many fish are unfit for consumption, and the quality of potable and irrigation water has been lowered. From this information, it may be assumed that many of the gorges and rivulets of the upper Basin have already been completely sterilized. Marcelo [ 34] made note of this, mentioning that the killing of small fish (Bryconamericus, Ancistrus, Pygidium) is already visible, as is that of the crustaceans, amphibians and even of the plants along the river- bank. He also points to the unusual proliferation of "sorropa" algae (Cladophora).Although these algae serve as fish food, their overabundance can lower the availability of oxygen for other species. This is probably a consequence of the excessive application of fertilizers. For all of these reasons, the problem of water contamination in the Huallaga Basin demands urgent study.

Ecosystems and genetic resources

This subject was mentioned in the section on deforestation. It should now be pointed out that the region of Peru where coca cultivation occurs is the area of the greatest genetic diversity in the country. The higher altitude jungle ("ceja de selva") and the Upper Jungle possess a high grade of endemisms, fruits of the speciation provoked by the rough terrain and peculiar climatic characteristics of the region. Most of the approximately 7 million hectares that have been deforested during this century in the Peruvian Amazon correspond precisely to this region [ 20] . Coca cultivation, as shown above, has played an important role in this process of deterioration of the environment, and therefore in the extinction of an incalculable number of species of jungle flora and fauna which have been brutally deprived of their natural ecosystems. In some cases, the ecosystems of marine flora and fauna have been so altered that many can no longer support life.

Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to deforestation. The coca-producing zones are lands without laws, where everyone does what he can and wants to. In these areas, the exploitation of the forests, game and fishing is completely anarchistic. Public officials have no access to the area. The few protected areas established to conserve representative samples of the ecosystem and its genetic diversity are unable to develop and are sometimes invaded by the coca producers and drug traffickers. The most pathetic case is that of Tingo Maria National Park. By 1972, most of the Park had been invaded by coca producers. In this Park, Dourojeanni and Tovar [ 22] discovered that the "guachara" (Steatornis caripensis), a species in danger of extinction, had begun to feed on coca fruits because little other food was available. In asimilar case, El Comercioof 30 August 1985 reported the existence of "cocaine honey", produced by the bees of the Alto Chicama River that were feeding off coca flowers. There are increasingly severe problems in the lower part of the recently created Abiseo National Park, in the department of San Martn, and many other protected areas may be experiencing similar problems. Particular attention should be paid to Manu National Park (Madre de Dios and Cuzco) and Yanachaga-Chemellen (Pasco) National Park. Table 2 lists the conservation units affected or liable to to he affected by coca cultivation.

Table 2. Conservation units and forest areas believed to be under actual or potential pressure from coca producers and drug traffickers

Units or areas

size (thousand hectares)



Nationa parks
Tingo Maria
Leoncio Prado (Huinueo)
Completely invaded
Matiscal Caceres (San Martin)
Partially invaded
Cutervo (Cajamarca)
Probably invaded
Yanachaga- Chemillen
Oxapampa (Pasco)
Possible invasion
1 533
Manu (Madre de Dios) and Pau-cartambo (Cuzco)
Possible invasion
Conservation units in progress
Junin and Cuzco
Partially invaded
Sira-San Carlos
1 000
Ucayali and Junin
Possible invasion
National forests
Von Humboldt
Coronel Portillo (Ucayali) and Pachitea (Huanuco)
Initial invasion
Biabo-Cordillera Azul
2 084
Mariscal Caceres (San Martin) and Coronel Portillo (Ucayali)
Possible invasion
2 072
Satipo (Junin) and La Convencion (Cuzco)
Initial invasion

Sources:Diverse personal communications received and observations made by author.

At least two national forests have been partially invaded by coca producers: Alexander Von Humboldt Park (Ucayali and Hunuco) and Apurimac Park (Junn and Cuzco). The invasion of the former resulted from the construction of the Von Humboldt-Constituci6n section of the Marginal Road. Other parks also have probably been invaded, in particular the Biavo - Cordillera Azul Park (San Martn and Loreto). Police operations in the region and the construction by the government and the timber companies of new roads disperse the coca producers throughout the Peruvian Amazon. Their presence along the new sections of the Marginal Road is massive and points to the need for more prudence with such works in the future. The coca plant is adapting to lower altitudes, where the alkaloid content of its leaves will be lower. This fact will only serve to contribute to the increased deforestation of larger areas. Coca fields are increasingly being planted under untrimmed "monte real" trees, to avoid detection from the air.


The objective of this work has been to demonstrate that coca cultivation and cocaine production have many other consequences in addition to those that everyone is, or is considered to be, familiar with. In reality, these activities have such a severe impact that they deserve immediate study. Immediate measures should also be taken to mitigate some of the negative consequences of these activities. Some possible measures might include: limiting the sale and controlling the transport of sulphuric acid and other chemical products required for the preparation of basic paste; carefully planning police operations to avoid the possibility that the State might become responsible for the dispersion of the coca producers and drug traffickers throughout the Amazon region; declaring a moratorium on the construction of new roads in the jungle, which mainly serve to attract coca producers, thereby avoiding State financing of the expansion of illegal cultivation; increasing the small budgets of the national parks and other protected areas, as well as those of the national forests, so that their development will be their defence against the coca producers; better planning of the exploitation of forest lands so that roads built there do not contribute to the expansion of illegal coca cultivation.

From the environmental point of view, crop substitution is highly desirable and concrete technical proposals for this purpose have been made [ 10] , [ 12] , [ 40] and [ 49] . The subject has also been addressed in Bolivia [ 51] . Nevertheless, in the proposals made by these authors, as well as in those developed with a more economic emphasis [ 26] , attention to the forest, tourist, and genetic resource potential of the region is lacking. Despite its technical and economic viability, crop substitution appears to be an impossible option without the support of a strong and efficient State. For reasons that will not be mentioned here, this is also true of eradication, which in technical terms at least is a relatively simple procedure.

The absurdity of the current situation in Peru is that, as has been shown, coca can be well cultivated, with good yields and without producing natural disasters. The technology for these production methods exists, and they have been practiced for centuries, perhaps for more than a millennium. Today, however, the mythological coca has become a symbol of destruction and death.



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