China: Don't Drill the Amazon!

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Prime Minister Li Keqiang
People's Republic of China

Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador
May 25th, 2015

Dear Prime Minister Li Keqiang:

We, the undersigned Ecuadorian indigenous organizations write as you visit our neighbors in South America.

We are contacting you because you have taken a stand in the fight to protect our planet and the air that we all breathe. You have promised to use an “iron fist” to punish companies that violate Chinese environmental regulations. You have noted that “fostering a sound ecological environment is vital for people’s lives,” and that pollution is “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.” You have also made serious commitments to reduce China’s domestic CO2 emissions. We are sure that you do not differentiate between China and the rest of the world when it comes to protecting a healthy environment and the people who depend on it.

However, Andes Petroleum’s (a merger between to Chinese state owned enterprises CNPC and Sinopec) proposed operations in our home, also known as blocks 79 and 83, would contaminate one of the most pristine and biodiverse parts of the Amazon rainforest. It would also violate international and national regulations that protect the Sápara culture, which the United Nations has recognized as a UNESCO Cultural Patrimony. While the government has tried to divide us to gain approval for Andes Petroleum’s operations, there has been no real consultation process, and we have released numerous declarations in opposition to oil operations in our territory. For decades, we have successfully protected our territory from oil companies. In Sarayaku, we have even won a historic case at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that required our government to pay us damages and set an international legal precedent that companies and governments must first gain the consent of indigenous communities prior to operating in their territory. Just last week we denounced the incursion of officials from Andes Petroleum into our territory.

In addition, Chinese banks are in talks with the Ecuadorian government over financing for drilling in Yasuni-ITT, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Yasuni National Park is home to more species of plants than all of China, 596 species of birds, and majestic mammals like the jaguar, the golden mantled tamarin, the giant anteater, and the Amazonian manatee. Many of these species and more would likely face the fate of the South China tiger (extinction) if China funded operations in Yasuni-ITT. It would be tragic if unique species were sacrificed for a few days worth of oil, which extraction will be very onerous due its heavy quality and the lack of logistic and oil infrastructure in the area.

Two communities that live in voluntary isolation in Yasuni-ITT could face the same fate if oil operations force them into contact. Research has shown that contact with the outside world would likely cause at least half of tribe members to perish. That is why in 2005 Chinese oil company SAPET decided not to drill in an uncontacted peoples reserve in block 113 in the Peruvian Amazon. We believe that this was a very wise and visionary decision and we are convinced that China respects the right to life and to self-determination of all peoples, and we trust that China will take the same approach regarding the blocks 79, 83 and the Yasuní Park.

As you are probably aware, the Chinese Embassy staff in Ecuador were among the groups that financially supported the conservation of the Yasuní. We take it as an encouraging sign that China is willing to contribute to protecting the most vulnerable people and the most diverse - and most fragile - ecosystems on the planet. As you know, we must keep most oil, coal and gas in the ground to stop runaway climate change. Premier Li, please help us so that our home can be the first place in the world where this comes true and the tide turns towards keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

We invite you to visit the Ecuadorian Amazon to witness its beauty and encourage you to keep fighting for the environment for our children in Ecuador, in China, and around the world.

Respectfully,

Franco Viteri, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE)

Felix Santi, President of the Kichwa of Sarayaku

Klever Ruiz, Presidente of the Sápara Nationality of Ecuador

Gloria Ushigua, President of the Sapara Women's Association

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