Last week, the Ecuadorian government announced that it had begun constructing the first of a planned 276 wells, ten drilling platforms, and multiple related pipelines and production facilities in the ITT oil field, known as Block 43, which overlaps Yasuní National Park in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest.
"In the rainforest, everything is possible. Here are our pharmacies. Here are our libraries. Here is our treasure, our life. Not only for us, for the entire world. So our future generations, your children, your children's children, can live and breathe clean air."
Amazon Watch and our allies have long argued that the Belo Monte mega-dam project made no sense in terms of energy production or economics – especially taking into account the enormous environmental and social destruction it was certain to cause. The dam was constructed despite the steadfast resistance of the affected Kayapo and riverine peoples and in defiance of both national and worldwide condemnation. Time and again Brazil's courts halted its construction and operation only to be ignored or overruled as the Dilma administration pressed on in its relentless efforts to make the Belo Monte monstrosity a symbol of her administration. Ironically, it has now become a symbol of her administration's corruption.
In light of last week's damning evidence directly implicating Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Lula da Silva in a kickback scheme, a driving force behind Brazil's dam-building boom has been laid bare: corruption.
Twenty years ago today, our founder Atossa Soltani stood face to face with Fernando Cardoso, then the president of Brazil. Atossa knew then that while indigenous peoples represent only four percent of the world's population, they are the guardians and stewards of 80 percent of the world's biodiversity. That's why she founded Amazon Watch on March 11th, 1996, to both protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples.
Amazon Watch works to protect the rainforest by advancing the rights of indigenous peoples. We work closely with indigenous leaders to help amplify the calls to keep the oil in the ground and stop mega-dams in the Amazon to avoid climate chaos. Defending indigenous rights, territories, living forests and flowing rivers are demonstrably effective solutions to climate change. Together, we are growing the movement to leave all fossil fuels in the ground and promote a just transition to 100% renewable energy.
Indigenous peoples of Peru's Amazon are responding to the recent spate of oil spills along the Northwestern Peru Pipeline. Primarily, they are pressing the Peruvian government – which runs Petroperu oil company responsible for the pipeline – to urgently attend to the affected communities, to remediate the contaminated rainforest, and to halt use of the pipeline until long-delayed upgrades are carried out.
History is repeating itself in the northern Peruvian Amazon, where three oil spills have been reported along the Northern Peruvian Pipeline since January 25th.
The Amazon rainforest can seem unimaginably vast. Similarly, the fight to defend it from the onslaught of industrial-scale threats like oil drilling, logging, and huge dams can appear overwhelming. But across the region, local indigenous peoples and our work to support them is making the difference and protecting the lands they have known for centuries. In 2015, these five snapshots of success gave us hope that the Amazon has a chance to avoid ecosystem collapse, but only if we support its indigenous guardians.
As I reflect on our recent work at COP21 in Paris on the Winter Solstice, I am very proud of what we achieved and filled with great hope for our work ahead. The Amazon Watch team did an incredible job of accompanying and supporting a twelve-person delegation of indigenous leaders, women and youth from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon and two Munduruku leaders from the Tapajós River Basin in the Brazilian Amazon to ensure the voices, concerns and solutions from indigenous peoples from the Amazon were heard by global leaders and media, and they were!