SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras congratulates the Amazon Waorani for their first legal victory in what will be a prolonged struggle.

SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

AMAZON PINK DOLPHIN

21/05/2019

 

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Introduction: Editorial comment by Pieter Jan Brouwer

SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras Congratulates the Waorani position of not permitting Oil and Mining activities in their ancestral lands. We are also pleased that three judges in Puyo, province of Pastaza, ruled that in effect, the Ecuadorian government had acted illegally by intending to auction of Woarani land to oil and mining companies without the previous consent of the community, as stipulated in the Constitution.

Unfortunately, this is not “an uncommon victory for an indigenous tribe in the Amazon” as the New Yorker suggests. The cases of the victims of oil contamination vs. Texaco-Chevron; SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras vs. Maxus and Andrade Gutierrez, the Cofan community of Sinangoe vs. the state in relation to illegal mining, all were won in the first instance and at the local judicial level. The verdicts were appealed, jurisdiction reallocated to the courts in Pichincha and later overturned by the Superior and Supreme Courts. Why the latter courts always appear to side with oil and mining multinationals is a conclusion to be drawn by the reader’s imagination!

In the case of the Waorani, the Ecuadorian Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Carlos Perez has decided to appeal the verdict. Most likely he will suggest that Petroleum in Waorani lands is of national interest, whereby previously obligatory popular consultations can be avoided and that while the Waorani may own the surface of their lands, anything and everything lying below is the property of the state.

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Minister Perez & President Moreno

Prior to being designated Minister of Energy by President Moreno, Mr. Perez, for 10 years, was the regional Latin American manager of none other than Halliburton, and formed part of US Vice-President Cheney’s fossil fuel team.

Nevertheless the Waorani and Carlos Perez have one point in common. They both know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that oil in the Amazon and severe pollution are synonymous.

Mr Perez is an oil specialist and can not  deny that  primary sources of oil pollution are open air waste pits, earthen tanks filled with a toxic stew from the oil production and separation processes– contaminated water, muds and oil.

However should Mr. Perez’s memory be fragile, the following photographs represent production pools, toxic graveyards and deforestation that took place under his watch in Halliburton.

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Construction of production pools: Halliburton-Andes Petroleum

STF trip _9.jpgHalliburton’s toxic graveyard: 14,267 barrels under one grave stone alone and there are hundreds of them.

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Deforestation of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras Aguas Negras Reserve  by Halliburton/Andes Petroleum in an attempt to build illegal production pools & toxic waste dumps.

Leakage and overflows of these tanks account for the high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and related salts found in Amazonian rivers, streams and underground fresh water sources The amount of production salts present in Amazonian streams and rivers varies between 70,000 and 110,000 ppm, reaching 200,00 ppm near the major oil fields.  This represents a level of salinity six times greater than ocean water.

Drinking water, bathing and fishing water contain levels of toxic oil constituents many times greater than the safety guidelines set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency,

The quantity of petroleum present in the principal tributaries varies between 500 to 5,000 ppm, an oil discharge of between 2,100 to 4,200 gallons of crude per day.

SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras tested four Petro-Ecuador, and five production and toxic waste pools situated in Campo Libertador. and in the area directly north of the Cuyabeno River. The Andes Petroleum wells and pools of Mariann 4 & 6 in Tarapoa were also included in our sample. All seismic studies in the protected areas surrounding the Cuyabeno National Fauna Reserve were registered and mapped.

Our work proved that the unlined “Secoya production pool” in Campo Libertador was draining 132,100 US gallons of toxic production water, every 12 hours directly into the watershed of Pakajacu and the Aguarico River.

The gas lift, where toxic chemicals are mixed to separate oil from water, dump 316,800 US gallons of untreated chemicals into the Aguarico River, every 18 hours.

Andes Petroleum well Mariann 6, drains 210,000 US gallons of production waters in the Aguas Negras River, at least once a day. The toxic waste pool in Mariann 4, deposits 5,284 US gallons of liquids into a principal artery of the Aguas Negras every six to eight hours.

Water samples were sent to specialized laboratories, which confirmed the following levels of toxic oil derivatives:

Libertador main well: 401, 800 nanograms per litre;

Libertador “Secoya” production pool: 423,000 nanograms per litre;

Petro-Ecuador Gas lift: 425,300 nanograms per litre;

Andes Petroleum, Mariann 6 field: 378,500 nanograms per litre.

Andes Petroleum Mariann 4 production pool: 398, 430 nanograms per litre;

The river Pisuri, 978 nanograms per litre and the junction of the rivers Cuyabeno and Aguas Negras, 1,610 nanograms per litre.

Should Mr. Perez object to our research, he may wish to refer to studies undertaken by Harvard and Washington based medical specialists.

“We collected 33 drinking and bathing water samples from inhabited areas surrounding Petro Ecuador production sites. The samples were analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a toxic element of crude oil. Calculating that 28 nanograms per liter of water corresponds to a lifetime cancer risk of one in 100,000, the United States environmental agency recommends that the level of these hydrocarbons in ambient water be reduced to zero.

The Ecuador drinking water samples were found to have concentrations ranging from 33 nanograms per litre to 2,793 nanograms per litre. Samples of fishing and bathing water found concentrations ranging from 40 nanograms per litre to 1,486 nanograms per litre. Samples taken of water leaking out of wastewater pits ranged from 46,500 to 405,634 nanograms per litre.”

In conclusion, the Ecuadorian oil industry is accountable for 23.8 million gallons of crude polluting Amazonian rivers. A further 4 billion cubic feet of gas has been burnt without the emission controls required to avoid contamination of the atmosphere.

As we have always have contended, oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon has induced the worst environmental disaster in history, responsible for what Human Rights sources consider to be “ the development genocide of Amazon Nationalities.”

The obvious question to be asked in this context is: If both parties are conscious of the scientifically proven disastrous consequences of oil in the Amazon, why is the government of President Moreno, the Minister of Energy Carlos Perez in particular, appealing a legal verdict that permits the Waorani their legal Right to Self-determination and guarantees the Rights of Nature as emphasized and underlined in the Constitution?

 

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An Uncommon Victory for an Indigenous Tribe in the Amazon

On April 26th, a parade of hundreds of Waorani men and women, members of an indigenous nation in a remote part of the Ecuadorian Amazon, marched triumphantly through the streets of Puyo, the regional capital of the eastern province of Pastaza. Many had come from villages in parts of the rain forest that have no roads—journeying by canoe and small plane. They were celebrating a new court ruling, which held that the Ecuadorian government could not, as it had planned, auction off their land for oil exploration without their consent. Nemonte Nenquimo, a Waorani leader, told me that they had come to Puyo to reclaim their right to self-governance and that the verdict had made them feel safer. “The court recognized that the government violated our right to live free, and make our own decisions about our territory and self determination,” she said, over WhatsApp. “Our territory is our decision, and now, since we are owners, we are not going to let oil enter and destroy our natural surroundings and kill our culture.”

In February, the Waorani, together with Ecuador’s Ombudsman, a parliament-appointed official who serves as a public advocate, had filed a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government for not properly consulting with them before opening up their territory to potential oil exploration. In recent years, Ecuador has divided much of its portion of the Amazon into blocks to lease the mineral rights in an international auction. One of the blocks included Waorani land. In 2018, the government removed Waorani territory from the auction but said that the region could still be subject to future drilling.

The path to the verdict had not been certain. In March, a group of Waorani women shut down a hearing with song, protesting the conditions under which the case was being tried; they objected to it being held in Puyo, far from the Waorani villages, and to the absence of a court-certified translator. Many of the Waorani representatives wore traditional dress in court and had red bars painted across their cheekbones and brows. Singing a song about their traditional role as protectors of the forest, they drowned out the judge and lawyers until the judge finally suspended the hearing, which was rescheduled for April.

The crux of the lawsuit was the Waorani’s claim that the government had not properly consulted their community about the oil auction. Nenquimo told me that representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Non-renewable Resources came to her village in 2012, seeking community members’ consent for the auction, but she and her family were out on a hunting trip and didn’t meet with them.  Acording to other sources the consultations were treated as a box that needed to be checked off, rather than as a serious discussion with the community about the impact of introducing oil extraction into the forest lands and rivers where they hunt and fish.  Language barriers and short visits made the process even more opaque.

On April 26th, a three-judge panel ruled in the Waorani’s favor, finding that the process did not afford the Waorani free, prior, and informed consent, and that their territory could not be included in an oil auction. The ruling could impact other indigenous groups whose lands are also up for oil exploration. One of the Waorani’s lawyers, Maria Espinosa, said in a press release that the judgment should also be interpreted to mean that “the State cannot auction off the territories of the six other indigenous nations in the southern Ecuadorian Amazon, which were subject to the government’s same flawed and unconstitutional prior consultation process.”

Just days before the Waorani victory, a coalition of Latin-American journalists unveiled a new reporting project, “Tierra de Resistentes” (“Land of Resistants”), focussed on the dangers that face environmental activists. Their reporting showed that advocates from ethnic minorities—particularly indigenous people—face a high risk of violent attack from supporters of mining, logging, and other industries. The project, which is supported by Deutsche Welle Akademie, the Pulitzer Center, and others, opens by declaring, “Defending the jungles, mountains, forests and rivers of Latin America has never been this dangerous.” One aspect of the project is a database, compiled by thirty journalists, from Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Guatemala, which documents more than thirteen hundred attacks on environmentalists that took place in these seven countries during a ten-year period, and the project includes in-depth stories about sixteen individual cases.

Andrés Bermúdez-Liévano, a Colombian journalist and the project’s editor, told me over the phone that, as the reporters compiled their stories, certain patterns emerged. Attacks often took place in remote regions, where the government and law enforcement had scant presence, if any. Bermúdez-Liévano told me that a 2016 report to the U.N. by Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human-rights defenders, confirmed a global increase in attacks on environmental groups. Forst’s report said that, in the year 2015, worldwide, more than three environmental advocates were killed every week, often in conflicts related to expanding mining, logging, damming, or agriculture. Forst found that the people who oppose these activities are often portrayed as “anti-development” or “unpatriotic” and are subject to violent attacks.

Source: The New Yorker

By: Rachel Riederer

 

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Amazon women’s movement: an initiative David Bergan & Mariana Almeida can be proud of.

 

EDITORIAL COMMITTEE:

Mariana Almeida

Arno Ambrosius

David Dunham

Gustavo López Ospina

Gertjan Storm

Editor: Pieter Jan Brouwer

 

“Amazon Pink Dolphin” is the official blog of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras. The intention of the blog is to generate debate on environmental issues; the Amazon Rain forest in particular. Contributions and support are done on a voluntary basis and do not imply institutional affiliation.  Similarly opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the official position of SVSF.

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All Title photographs of the Amazon Pink fresh water Dolphin are the creation of Kevin Schafer.

 

 

~ by SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras on 21 May, 2019.

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