27 de septiembre de 2020
Hispanic World

Ecuador under magnifying glass over recent crude oil spills in Amazonia

By Daniela Brik

By Daniela Brik

Quito, Apr 22 (efe-epa).- Around 100,000 people in Ecuador's Amazon region have been affected by petroleum spills in two rivers resulting from ruptures in three oil pipelines built through a highly seismic and eroded zone.

The situation dates back to the first week of April, in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis in the South American nation which has eclipsed this other environmental and human emergency that is preventing river communities from getting access to water, fishing or irrigation for their crops, with farming and fishing being their main livelihoods during the movement restrictions and isolation measures decreed by the government to battle the pandemic.

A coalition of local non-governmental organizations has demanded that the government and the involved oil companies (one of them the state-owned Petroecuador) take responsibility in the situation and punish those who took action too late to prevent a spill that has even affected Peru, but work to mitigate the situation is up in the air.

The pipeline ruptures were caused by a landslide and spilled crude oil into the Coca River, which then flowed to the Napo and to the indigenous communities across the border in Peru.

The oil companies, which have been under pressure to guarantee the supply of oil, say that this was an act of God and that they are working to repair the damage in a situation in which leading international companies are intervening.

Consulted by EFE, the Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP) said that it "closed the valves on April 7" and that the spill occurred "due to inertia, (from) the remnants (of oil) left in the pipeline," although there is still no exact figure for how much oil spilled. OCP also said it has offered water and food to the local population.

But those statements do not convince those affected by the situation.

"We don't have any figures that are convincing to us. At first, they said that 4,000 barrels had spilled. Then OCP revealed in parliament that it was 8,900 barrels," Carlos Mazabanda, the coordinator in Ecuador for Amazon Watch, the organization that is monitoring the spill, told EFE.

He said that similar spills that affected the same communities in 2009 and 2013 had a similar impact, adding that "there's no transparency on the part of the state (for us) to know what the real amount of crude was that spilled."

Belen Paez, the director of the environmentalist Pachamama Foundation, referred to the 2013 accident in which 50,000 barrels of oil spilled, saying that "the dimensions of (this) disaster are similar."

"We've had earlier spills, but the magnitude of the contamination today is rather worrying," Olger Gallo, the leader of the Panduyaku community, in Sucumbios province, said.

Gallo's community has 183 families and about 800 people in it, and it is contending with both geographical isolation and social isolation due to the coronavirus, as well as seeing its economy virtually vanish.

"Our way of life today is very much altered. Our livelihood has been decimated and there's hunger," he said, pointing especially to about 15 families who live along the riverbank and were directly affected by the spill.

The village was one of the first to be reached by the spill and he said that when that occurred it seemed as if it had been wiped out by the crude.

"Everything was contaminated with oil. When we woke up we found on the riverbanks dead fish, snakes and frogs. The fields with their crops were affected" by the rise in the river due to heavy rains in the area, he said.

The petroleum is not still flowing but the river "is devastated" and the black patches of oil can be seen all along the entire riverbank coating plants, animals, rocks and soil, despite the constant downpours.

"There are 150 indigenous communities, 24 parishes affected and an estimated 113,000 people," Mazabanda said.

Paez said that what has happened in Amazonia is "a human and environmental drama that has been repeated over the past 20 years in Ecuador in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana."

The pollution along hundreds of kilometers of the Coca River will have incalculable consequences for the local fauna and flora, and some say that certain species could "disappear completely" from the area.


Histórico de noticias
Congress delegation to inspect ICE detention center on unwanted surgeries

Atlanta, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- A US congressional delegation on the weekend will inspect the Irwin County Detention Center in southern Georgia to investigate...

Costa Rica increasing its protected ocean territory

By Maria Jose Brenes

Trump booed while paying respects before Ginsburg's casket at Supreme Court

Washington, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- A large crowd loudly booed President Donald Trump on Thursday during his visit to the Supreme Court, where the late Justice...

Why Brazil's Pantanal is having the worst fires in recent decades

By Carlos Meneses Sanchez

Trump: November election result will end up in Supreme Court

Washington, Sep 23 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he believes the result of the November presidential election will end up in the...

US begins test of Covid-19 vaccine with 60,000 volunteers

Washington, Sep 23 (efe-epa).- Janssen Pharmaceutica, owned by US multinational Johnson & Johnson, on Wednesday launched one of the world's largest tests of...

Trump prohibits Americans from staying in 400-plus hotels in Cuba

Washington, Sep 23 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced new sanctions against Cuba, prohibiting Americans from staying in hotels on the...

Migrant who reported sterilization at US detention center released

Atlanta, Sep 23 (efe-epa).- Pauline Binam, one of the immigrants who complained that they had been sterilized against their will at a migrant detention...

Debate about high court vacancy heats up US election climate

By Laura Barros

Trump registered his trademark in 2008 in Cuba to build hotels, casinos

Miami, Sep 22 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump registered his business trademark in Cuba in 2008 with an eye toward building hotels, casinos and golf...

Typed draft of Neruda sonnet found

Santiago, Sep 22 (efe-epa).- A preliminary typewritten and signed version of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's 1965 sonnet "Sangre de Toro" (Blood of the Bull)...

UN celebrates 75th anniversary with lackluster summit amid problems

By Mario Villar

Trump insists he'll fill Supreme Court vacancy, despite nearness of election

Washington, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump insisted on Monday that he will quickly replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg...

"Ultra-Hot Neptune," new exoplanet 260 light years from Earth

Santiago, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- An investigation headed by Chilean scientists has discovered the first so-called "Ultra-Hot Neptune," a type of exoplanet...

Brazilian government calls for halt to "Cuties" screenings, Netflix probe

Rio de Janeiro, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- The Jair Bolsonaro administration on Monday called for a halt to local screenings of the French film "Mignonnes"...

DeChambeau scores decisive win in US Open

Mamaroneck, New York, Sep 20 (efe-epa).- US golfer Bryson DeChambeau won his first major tourney on Sunday in decisive fashion, sweeping to victory in the...

Colombian police receiving yoga workshops to manage emotions on the job

By Jeimmy Paola Sierra

Gasoline shortage in Venezuela, new weapon in ongoing political fight

By Ron Gonzalez

At least 17 migrant women subjected to unnecessary surgeries at US detention center

Atlanta, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- At least 17 women were subjected to unnecessary surgeries, including hysterectomies, at a migrant detention center in Georgia, a...

Firefighters continue battling blazes across California

By Alex Segura Lozano

Six months of quarantine, an eternity in Venezuela

By Sabela Bello

After court reversal, TPS beneficiaries seek to be heard in US

By Luis Uribe

Apple unveils all-new iPad Air with advanced chip, but holds off on iPhone

By Marc Arcas

Authorities concerned over forest fire near Los Angeles

By Alex Segura Lozano