Ecuador's Amazon rainforest contains some of the planet's most bio-diverse ecosystems and are home to thousands of indigenous peoples who have lived there for millennia. Below the surface of this fragile jungle also lay reserves of crude oil and natural gas, the ever-growing demand for which threatens the environment and the indigenous communities that inhabit it. Industrial-scale natural resource extraction has become a vital source of income for the Ecuadorian state, prompting a variety of projects throughout the region. Already many indigenous groups have suffered irreversible damage to their native territories, the erosion of their cultural heritage, and a myriad of health complications. Since its founding in 1996, Amazon Watch has worked throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon to support indigenous and environmental groups in their fight to beat back oil expansion and other threats, win rights protections, and obtain justice for past environmental crimes.
Cleaning up Chevron's Toxic Legacy
Thirty years of reckless oil development by Chevron (formerly Texaco) has taken a devastating toll on Ecuador's northern Amazon forest communities and ecosystems. The company's dump and run tactics have left the rainforest floor stained with toxic waste pits and streams laced with heavy metals and known carcinogens. Local indigenous and farmer communities are poisoned at virtually every turn and face a public heath crisis. Amazon Watch has joined with local affected communities to demand that Chevron clean up its trail of toxic destruction, provide clean drinking water, and allocate funds for the health care to devastated communities. The world is watching and supporting as forest communities seek justice for what is widely considered the worst oil related disaster on the planet. Learn more »
Stop the XI Oil Round
The Ecuadorian government has begun an auction of 21 new oil blocks in the southern Amazon in what is being called the XI Oil Round. These blocks threaten the best protected tract of primary rainforest remaining in Ecuador and over seven indigenous nationalities that call this forest home. Learn more »
Challenging Emerging Threats
Ecuador's oil frontier continues to expand in the Amazon. The Ecuadorian government plans to offer 10 new oil concessions in pristine forest and indigenous lands – an estimated 5 million acres that would put the great majority of Ecuador's rainforest in the hands of oil companies. Additionally, a new heavy oil project in an area known as the Sacred Valley is under way, threatening critical river systems and local Kichwa communities.
Meanwhile, a major infrastructure corridor touted as an "alternative" to the Panama Canal is moving forward. With financing from the Inter-American Development Bank for feasibility studies, the much hyped but technically challenging Manta-Manaus mega project aims to create an import-export corridor between Ecuador's pacific coast port of Manta, and Brazil's bustling river city of Manaus. The multi-modal project threatens to exacerbate existing drivers of deforestation as Amazonian products (timber, soy, agro-fuels) could reach Asian markets faster and cheaper.
Learn more about:
- IIRSA and the Manta-Manaus Corridor »
- Ivanhoe Energy in the Sacred Valley of the Kichwa »
- Achuar and Shuar resistance to drilling in Block 24 »
Beyond supporting indigenous efforts to keep their territories intact and win greater rights guarantees, Amazon Watch is also promoting visionary alternatives that could protect the Amazonian environment and local communities. The Yasuni ITT initiative is one such initiative for which we have actively campaigned. The proposal seeks to keep some 900 million barrels of heavy crude that lies underneath Yasuni National Park permanently in the ground in exchange for half of the forgone oil revenues. If done right, the proposal is an important first step towards keeping oil reserves in fragile and culturally sensitive ecosystems in Ecuador and beyond. Learn more»
Advancing Indigenous Peoples' Rights
Ecuador's indigenous movement has achieved many important victories over the last two decades – winning recognition of land rights and the right to consultation, acceptance of Ecuador as a "pluri-national" state, and stopping dangerous public policies and international trade pacts. But these advances did not come without a fight, as many required nationwide uprisings and led to the ousting of several presidents. Now, new oil, mining, and water laws, as well as regulations on environmental services and possible implementation of climate change mitigation measures like REDD, all have major indigenous rights implications and have been met with opposition. The Correa administration has responded by criminalizing legitimate nonviolent protest and charging indigenous leaders with "sabotage" and "terrorism". Learn more »