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The Amazon rainforest is in constant danger.
Multinationals and oil companies have been exploiting some areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon for decades, causing irreversible damage to the ecosystem and the populations that live in them.
In the Province of Sucumbíos, the multinational Texaco (later Chevron) has irreparably contaminated the region, causing damage to many inhabitants of the indigenous peoples and peasants.
The provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana are among the most affected by oil pollution caused by black gold multinationals.
The double threat to the peoples of the Amazon
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The oil spill and the triple pandemic that plagues the Ecuadorian Amazon
In 1972, Texaco (later Chevron) began to extract oil in Sucumbíos.
Since then, the companies have dumped some 64,000 million liters of toxic water and 650,000 barrels of crude oil into rivers and the Amazon forest, according to the Union of People Affected and Affected by Texaco Petroleum Operations (UDAPT) .
Petroecuador and Petroamazonas, national companies, took over the Texaco facilities and continued to dump toxic waste in the area, today one of the most damaged in the country, with approximately one thousand oil wells.
Among millennial populations that run the risk of disappearing
Food and water are affected, and fisheries and agriculture are in danger.
Inhabitants of indigenous and peasant communities report ailments.
The air is not spared either.
The Sucumbíos jungle is full of
, huge chimneys that burn the exhaust gases from oil extraction and also spoil the rainwater, which is the first source of supply for the inhabitants of the area.
In recent years, associations have emerged that bring together those affected by the multinational oil and
which have led to several court hearings against Texaco-Chevron.
A central figure in the fight against the company is the lawyer Pablo Fajardo, who for years has been carrying out the legal battles of those affected, coordinating the activities of the UDAPT.
This association of indigenous and peasant activists was born with the intention of protecting the life and rights of people living in areas contaminated by multinational oil companies in Ecuador. Legal battles against industry giants have continued for more than 20 years. The State of Ecuador has given the reason to the populations and the company was sentenced to pay penalties for about 9.5 million dollars (about eight million euros) to clean up about 480,000 hectares of affected area that some call “The Chernobyl of the Amazon”. But Chevron-Texaco refused to pay the fines, and in September 2018,The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague annulled the sentence against the multinational because it considered that the Ecuadorian State had violated the Bilateral Investment Treaty with the United States, according to the company's own website.
The legal battle is not over, and those affected hope that one day they will be proved right and the multinational will be made to pay what it owes
To this day, the legal battle has not ended and those affected hope that at some point they will be proved right and the multinational will be made to pay what it owes.
However, the environmental disaster cannot be compensated.
Activists want the problem to be known worldwide.
And for this, one day they threw originality. UDAPT created a new form of tourism: the
, a tour to sensitize people and visitors to the environmental disaster caused by the oil companies. The initiative consists of a guided visit to the most polluted areas of the provinces and is a way to raise awareness and attract attention. It allows to see, in addition to several
, numerous oil wells and contaminated places. They have already made more than 700.
The tour attracts activists, journalists, photographers and video makers, ideal visitors to the UDAPT, whose members desperately seek justice, and want their story to be told, in order to give a voice to indigenous and peasant populations suffering the consequences of the bad habits.
Drain pipe near an oil well.
The flora and fauna have also suffered damage caused by pollution and the presence of wild animals in the area has drastically decreased.Lorenzo Ambrosino
Indigenous peoples in particular suffer here, as in many other places in the Amazon, an invasion of their territories. Many of the oil extractions were carried out on the ancestral lands of the native tribes of the region, whose survival is threatened today despite the fact that they have lived for millennia in symbiosis with the ecosystem of the largest forest in the world. There is also the risk of a loss of the ancestral traditions of these peoples. The
inhabitants of these lands for centuries, have been reduced by half in recent decades. Currently, they only outnumber a few hundred people.
The State and the oil multinationals have tried to create systems of cooperation and compensation for damages caused by mining activity. Indigenous people often accept sums of money or investments in village infrastructure in exchange for licenses and land concessions. This is the case of the Millennium Community, held in the tribal town A'I Cofan de Dureno, near the Aguarico River, one of the most affected in the area. The Cofan territory has been a land of extractivism by multinationals since the 1970s and has suffered a lot of violence from the new settlers.
The creation of this community is due to a negotiation between the Government and the multinational Petroamazonas in 2014, in which the reopening of Dureno 1, an already closed well, and the expansion of the Guante 12 well, both in the territory of Cofan, were approved. . Since then, Dureno has become an avant-garde town, endowed with lighting, concrete huts and a bilingual school, where children study both Spanish and the tribal language.
The village is equipped with a lighting installation and water cisterns, for which the community pays taxes.
Each family nucleus has received a house, and structures for ecotourism have also been built.
Thanks to these investments, the oil company has obtained from the Government the concession to open new extraction wells in the area.
Many residents of Dureno, however, disagree with the decision.
The elderly remember well the arrival of the oil companies, while the younger ones have never known their uncontaminated ancestral territory
Siekopai's population has also been greatly reduced due to pollution-related diseases, suffering over the years from violence, threats and pressure from companies operating in its territory.
Some towns are near the Aguarico River, such as San Pablo de Kantesiyia.
The elderly remember well the arrival of the multinationals, while the younger ones have never known their uncontaminated ancestral territory.
Celestino Piaguage is one of the founders of the Siekopai community of San Pablo de Kantesiya, which has lived with the problem of environmental pollution for years.Gianmarco Di Costanzo
Oil companies, dumping toxic waste into the river, have spoiled the watercourse, seriously endangering the health of those who survive thanks to the Aguarico River, where the population of São Paulo bathes, washes, and children often they play. Some residents point out that when oil production was high, those who bathed came out with black stains of oil. In addition, the growing process of
of the communities, especially due to the arrival of agri-food companies that experiment with new agriculture and plantations in the territory and the presence of stores that stock up weekly with products that the Siekopai have never consumed before, such as Coca-Cola. For the first time, the new generations of the tribes are in contact with globalization and the digital world. And habits, clothing, food are beginning to change. The ancestral culture of these populations and their ancient traditions are less and less frequented by the new generations. And there is a real danger that languages will be forgotten too.
The Amazon is the largest forest in the world, with a territory that encompasses nine South American states, which cannot find a way to protect the environment and the populations that inhabit it.
The extraction of raw materials and deforestation are unforgiving and their consequences can be seen in the landscape.
Safeguarding this ecosystem is essential for the survival of the planet.
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