Indigenous Groups Protest Ecuador Oil-Drilling Plans


Indigenous Groups Protest Ecuador Oil-Drilling Plans


Leaders of indigenous groups from Ecuador’s Amazon region said Monday they won’t allow new oil activity in their territories, and if necessary will go to international courts to block any new drilling.

By Mercedes Alvaro

QUITO, Ecuador—Leaders of indigenous groups from Ecuador’s Amazon region said Monday they won’t allow new oil activity in their territories, saying they will go to international courts to block any new drilling.

About 150 indigenous women from the Amazon are in Quito asking to meet with President Rafael Correa and the National Assembly. The women came from the city of Puyo, about 143 miles south of Quito, in a march called the “Mobilization of Women for Life.” Mr. Correa had offered to meet with them in the Amazon-region city of Pañacocha, but the women declined.

The group is against oil activity recently approved by the National Assembly in two blocks in the ecologically rich Yasuní national park, as well as any new activity in the Amazon region in general. This includes activity on 16 blocks to be auctioned off in a coming exploration-licensing round. The deadline for offers in this new round is Nov. 28.

“Our rights are being infringed and we are willing to go to all international bodies to make our voice heard,” said Patricia Gualinga, a leader of the Sarayacu ethnic group.

The group’s march on Quito comes two months after the government backtracked on a promise to not drill in a protected part of the Amazon. In August, the government said it would abandon a plan it announced six years ago to refrain from drilling in the rainforest if the world came up with $3.6 billion to make up for some of the lost revenue. Mr. Correa said only $13 million was raised—money that would be given back to donors.

Zoila Castillo, a leader in the town of Bobonaza, in Pastaza province, said indigenous people from Amazon provinces plan on an unspecified date to hold a big march to Quito, which leaders expect will be joined by environmentalists and social groups seeking to halt new drilling in the Amazon region.

President Correa has said resources from new oil drilling will help reduce poverty in the Andean nation, with a portion of these resources going to develop areas where new oil blocks are located.

In July of last year, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of the Sarayacu community in a dispute over oil exploration in their territory, ending a decade-long legal battle against the Ecuadorean state.

The Kichwa people of Sarayacu brought a suit against Ecuador in 2003 for unauthorized oil development that they said violated their human rights.

The court said the Ecuadorean state violated the community’s right to be consulted as well as the community’s property rights and their cultural identity.

Nemonte Nenquino, a member of the Waorani group, said Amazon indigenous peoples haven’t benefited with energy development in the region.

“Oil production could bring money, but in two, three or some more years the money will end, and there will just be logged forests, polluted water and nature will be devastated,” Ms. Nenquino said.

The Ecuadorean government has said that all new oil activity will use the highest technical, social and environmental standards in exploring and developing prospects.

Currently Ecuador produces about 516,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The government expects to produce about 650,000 to 750,000 barrels a day by 2019.

Source: The Wall Street  Journal

Learning about the Amazon rainforest: a resource under threat

Rainforest experts explain the challenges to maintaining one of the planet’s essential natural resources

Burning Rain Forest In The Amazon, Brazil Photo © Julio Etchart

Laws to protect the Amazon have not stopped deforestation. Photograph: Julio Etchart/Panos Pictures

According to Dr Toby Gardner, a conservation scientist at the University of Cambridge, the Amazon stands at a crossroads. “We need to understand how everything is connected,” he says. “In an ideal world, the forest would be celebrated not only through protected parks but through incentives such as compensation and market premiums for farmers, with the foresters and farmers acting as proud stewards of one of the earth’s greatest natural resources.”

People are a major factor. “People who live in the Amazon are among the poorest in Latin America,” says Damian Fleming, head of programmes, Brazil and Amazon, at WWF-UK. “They need support and incentives to do the right thing. But long-term, sustained government support is crucial, otherwise you just get a collection of well-meaning projects.”

And there’s an element of realism that needs to be acknowledged. No one cuts down the rainforests for fun, says Dr John Hemming, anthropologist and author, but deforestation is driven by demand for beef, soya and timber, and exports are bound to continue. “We can’t keep every last bit of rainforest intact but I’d like to see some serious respect for the indigenous and environmental reserves which exist now. Brazil and other countries have done very well in creating these.”

That’s something which Dr Jos Barlow, an ecologist at Lancaster University, agrees with. “In some areas, charities and local government have collaborated to clarify the law and stop deforestation,” he says. “Our next challenge is to expand this throughout the entire Amazon and defend protected areas.”

Looking ahead

The twin threats of cattle farming, one of the greatest causes of deforestation, and badly planned or illegal dams risk upsetting the Amazon’s ecosystem and its related services. “It’s a delicate balance,” says Cláudio Maretti, Living Amazon Initiative leader, WWF. “We need to consider biodiversity when planning energy policy, and we need a longer-term view from the nine countries of the Amazon, with a united approach to sustainable development.”

“I’d see climate and water funds and pollution management systems in place,” concludes Dr Gardner, “with payments from national and international beneficiaries of the services the Amazon provides now for free. I hope the Amazon will retain the greatest expanse of rainforest on the planet and be supported by innovative organisations that can unite people, governments and the private sector.”

Amazon fact finder: share these stats with students

The Amazon biome – or ecosystem – covers 6.7m sq km (around 28 times the size of the UK) and is shared by eight countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname, as well as the overseas territory of French Guiana.

It consists mostly of dense moist tropical forest, but also includes savannas, floodplain forests, grasslands, swamps, bamboos and palm forests.

Temperatures usually average 27.9°C in the dry season and 25.8°C in the rainy season. Not only does the Amazon encompass the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world, but one in 10 of the known species on Earth lives there.

The Amazon is home to more than 30 million people, about 9% (2.7 million) of who are indigenous people (including 350 different ethnic groups).

It is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. In the 10 years from 1999 to 2009, more than 1,200 species of plants and vertebrates were identified for the first time, including 637 plants, 257 fish, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 16 birds and 39 mammals. Discoveries ranged from a coin-sized pink ringed frog to a four-metre-long anaconda.

The Amazon river flows for more than 6,600km, contains the largest number of freshwater fish species in the world and accounts for around 15% of the world’s total river discharge into the oceans.

During the last 50 years, humankind has caused the destruction of at least 17% of the Amazon rainforest, an area twice the size of Spain.

Every year, the Amazon rainforest receives torrential rainfall, between 1,500mm and 3,000mm, either blown from the Atlantic Ocean or from evapotranspiration – the loss of water from the soil by evaporation and through transpiration from plants.

The Amazon contains 90-140 billion metric tonnes of carbon, the release of which, if not controlled, could accelerate global warming significantly (currently land conversion and deforestation in the Amazon release up to 0.5 billion metric tonnes of carbon per year). It is therefore an important factor in regulating global climate.

How can I help?

Register your schools for I Love Amazon Schools and use the free primary school resources to explore the rainforest across the curriculum, suitable for five- to 11-year-olds.

Recycle your phones, gadgets and computers and don’t renew them so often – they contain metals and minerals mined at the cost of deforestation.

Ask your school to use only paper and wood furniture from legal and well-managed forests – look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label.

Save energy. Walk or cycle rather than drive, turn off lights, don’t leave devices on standby, don’t overheat rooms – greenhouse gases are one of the greatest threats to the Amazon.

Cut waste. Bring packed lunches in reusable containers and ask to recycle plastics, tins and paper at school and home. Teachers could print handouts on both sides and pupils could share teaching resources.

Eat well and eat less meat. Ask your school to use local food or look for Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance symbols. Choose products with “sustainable palm oil” to avoid palm oil from land that was once rainforest.

Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

Editorial Committee

David Dunham

Arno Ambrosius

Gustavo López Ospina

Mariana Almeida

Frank Brouwer

Pieter Jan Brouwer

Assistant: Emilia Romero

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 





~ by FSVSF Admin on 23 October, 2013.

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