ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF OCP PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION

During March 2002, a study was conducted of the social and environmental impacts of the OCP construction. The entire trajectory of the heavy crude pipeline was inspected, from Lago Agrio to Esmeraldas. 149 property owners, workers and representatives from 5 municipal authorities were interviewed. Direct observations were made, on private and public lands crossed by the OCP pipeline. All of this material is documented in photographs, surveys and recordings.

The study includes only sites where pipeline construction has already begun, covering a total distance of approximately 120 kilometers, divided into the following sections:
– Esmeraldas, 40 km (slide 2)
– Nono, 10km (slide 3)
– Guamaní to Cuyuja, 30 km (slide 4)
– Lago Agrio, 40 km (slide 5)

Within the framework of this presentation, the goal is to show that the construction of the OCP threatens the natural environment and the rights of the people that live in it, and that it does not comply with norms stipulated in the Environmental Impact Study (EIA), nor with World Bank standards.

VERIFIED ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE OCP (Slide 6)

1. Soil Impacts (slide 7)

The pipeline route crosses perpendicularly and longitudinally steep areas. The measures taken by the company Techint to avoid landslides and the erosion of soils are limited to:

· Placing bags of soil or sand that do not exceed 40 centimeters in height at one side of 20 centimeter deep ditches dug diagonally to the route (slide 8)
· Placing wooden boards to shore up slopes (slide 9)

With heavy rain, these methods are not sufficient to prevent landslides (slide 10). According to our survey, after only three months of work 21% of properties affected by the OCP have already experienced landslides as a result of poor pipeline construction methods (slide 11). These methods do not serve to prevent the slipping of piping during construction, which is likely to cause accidents (slide 12).

In many places, the pipeline has been installed on the ridges of hills, requiring several meters of the ridge tops to be opened up for the route. This type of operation produces a great amount of earth that is tossed into the valley below. (slides 13 y 14)

OCP construction in steeply sloped areas and on the top of ridges causes soil instability, which worryingly tends to cause accidents and severe landslides during construction and operation. This land instability was the cause of the accident that occurred in Esmeraldas on April 14, which left two people wounded and one dead (slide 15). This concern is worsened in places already prone to landslides, like the region around El Guango, where landslides claimed the lives of 40 people in June 2001 (slide 16).
Visiting the properties crossed by the pipeline and talking with property owners, one cannot help but be concerned about future incompliance by the OCP Consortium and its subcontractors. The signing of contracts for the right to cross private property were, very often, conditioned on the post-construction restoration of affected areas. Property owners were told that the route was not going to be dug deeply, but only stripped of its vegetation and top soil when necessary; fertile top soil was going to be kept and then put back; original vegetation would grow back after construction work; property owners would be able to return the land to production, and that land would be returned to them in good condition. Nevertheless, one can observe that all along the route, the reality is totally different.

In undulating hilly areas, earth removed from the pipeline route reaches up to 7 meters in height. Fertile top soil has either disappeared completely or has been tossed to the sides of the route ( slide 17). The large quantities of earth removed are also disposed of in this way. On many properties, particularly in lower altitude zones where the soil is more sensitive to high temperatures, rain and insulation, the earth is now sterile, deprived of all vegetation and subject to erosion (slide 18). It is still impossible that the original vegetation will grow back. The passage of heavy machinery will make this conclusion more inevitable.

The same methods have been used inside the Cayambe-Coca Reserve (slide 19) although the pipeline’s Environmental Impact Study (EIA) insists on the necessity of taking special care with operations undertaken in protected areas. Large quantities of earth have been removed and used to fill in ditches in lower areas (slide 20). Only a small portion of topsoil, covered by herbaceous vegetation, has been kept on the sides of the route (slide 21). It is important to underline that once dirt from the highlands (paramo) is exposed, it completely loses the water retention capacity that makes it fundamental to the conservation of hydraulic cycles in the entire Andean region. Along the pipeline's right of way, the highland (paramo) areas will not recuperate their original ecological characteristics and will be exposed to water drainage and subsequent erosion.

In addition to areas crossed by the pipeline, other lands also suffer from disrespectful and savage OCP construction methods. For example, construction debris has been deposited in rivers and along access roads. In Borja, the route of the Quijos River has been redirected to allow the removal of construction materials from the riverbed to build the Sardinas Station. Although the removal work is now finished, there has been no effort to restore the ecosystem, or the riverbed to their original state in land amiably lent to Techint by Mr. Luis Vega Pérez.(slide 22)

Finally, one might ask "why do they clear out a larger area than they need? This is the case, for example, on Mrs. Rosero's property, in Nono, where Techint knocked down a copse of arrayan trees before noticing a geological fault which made them decide to reroute through neighboring land. Near the Papallacta Lagoon, one can see two routes a few meters apart due to a tardy decision to redirect the route (slide 23). Not even the protected areas escape this type of negligence. For example, an area of forest 31 meters wide was cleared out at kilometer 202+500 in the Cayambe-Coca Reserve, even though the EIA stipulates that storage centers or camps in this area should not be constructed in this protected areas.


2. Impacts on Water (slide 24 )
Neglect in the construction of access roads and the pipeline route has caused the blockage of countless streams and ponds. (slide 25) Our study documents the blockage and contamination of 157 ponds, springs and drinking water sources. This blockage is a result of the use of inadequate "technology", workers’ negligence and a lack of available economic resources to mitigate environmental impacts, in particular on the property of poor farmers.

This can be illustrated with some examples:

From March 6-8, a dyke blocked by construction caused the flooding of 4 hectares of pasture land where Mr. Elias Moreta usually keeps his cows. This man, whose property is located in kilometer 15 of the Lago Agrio-Quito route, additionally suffered the loss of two household wells, which were covered by the water resulting from the blocked dyke (slides 26 y 27).

On other properties, the pipeline route covered many other pools for the following reasons:
· Water pipes were placed higher than the water level; (slide 28.)
· Instead of using piping, wood trunks were used and covered in earth, which slides off when it rains;( slide 29 y 30.)
· The flow of water was stopped by wire mesh blocked with water sediment; (slide 31). The lack of maintenance of the mesh causes flooding of pastures. (slide 32)
· Nothing is done to permit the passage of water underneath the pipeline route.(slide 33)

· On Ramón Haya's property, the Loro Yacu River was blocked for 15 days in the beginning of April because of tree trunks hurled into it by the company and from landslides caused by rain and the lack of prevention methods (slide 34).

These blockages generate flooding in expanses of grazing or crop land, contamination of wells, and the outbreak of diseases like dengue fever due to water stagnation etc. Although these floods are temporary, the flooded pastures become covered with fungi that make grass inedible and even dangerous for cattle (slide 35).

The lack of mitigation methods for dealing with removed earth and destroyed vegetation causes the obstruction of springs and contamination of wells, pools and rivers, which are, often, the only source of drinking water for families (slides 36). Trunks removed during the laying of the pipeline route were hurled in the Quijos River where they caused the death of a tourist while kayaking down the river (Slide 37). This type of negligence can have an important economic impact in a zone where ecotourism is developing. In areas where fish farming is practiced, the contamination of the water by the earth has caused massive amounts of fish to die.

The negligence and lack of concern about water sources and the environment demonstrated by the consortium fuel our concerns, particularly regarding risks to drinking water supplies to cities and towns like Quito y Mindo (slide 38). On March 23, the passing of machinery broke the pipe that takes thermal waters to the communal swimming pools of Jamanco, leaving them out of service for a whole weekend. In many places, the pipe that takes water to Quito crosses, along the same right of way, the OCP, the SOTE and the gas pipeline (slide 39). In these places, does some sort of pipeline reinforcement exist and is the pipeline being constructed with fire and explosion prevention in mind?


3. Impacts on Vegetation (slide 40)

All along the route of the OCP, ecosystems and crops have been destroyed. According to our study, OCP construction generated loss of crops in 89% of the surveyed properties and destroyed natural vegetation in 65% of them (slide 41).

Most seriously, along almost the entire route the area of vegetation destroyed exceeds the figures for the right of way (ROW) given by the consortium and representatives paying the landowners (slide 42). In the majority of the cases, this is caused by throwing removed earth and vegetation beyond the limits of the ROW, and not inside the limits as the EIA had foreseen (slide 43). On steep slopes, earth removed is only contained by small boards insufficient to stop the destruction of nearby vegetation (slide 44).

Often the destruction of vegetation beyond the right of way is due to the negligence of the workers. In fact, on occasions heavy machinery has been used instead of chain-saws to fell trees making control over the direction in which they fall impossible.

Furthermore, there were cases registered of workers robbing crops.

Commercial trees located along the route are cut down and taken by Techint personnel without real compensation for the property owners (slide 45). Later, they are used for construction work. It is a sacrilege to see boards made out of guayacán trees or mahogany laid down in marshes to allow the passage of machinery (slide 46.)

Furthermore, OCP Ltd. exploits and buys wood, without a forestry permit, and uses it for construction work. In Santo Domingo and Guarumos, there were claims made to the Minister of the Environment relating to the illegal exploitation of wood.


4. Impacts on Fauna (slide 47 )

Although it is difficult to evaluate the effect of pipeline construction on animals, one can ascertain the following:
· 31% of those interviewed reported the death of wild animals from factors relating to infrastructure construction and the use of nocturnal reflectors at the stations, which kills thousands of insects as well as numerous bigger animals (slide 48),
· 15% of those interviewed experienced the accidental death of domestic animals as a result of OCP construction (slide 49),
· noise from machinery makes birds flee several kilometers from their natural habitat.

In addition, construction workers damage fences and either forget to replace them or poorly replace them. In our study, 82% of the property owners have had their fences damaged or destroyed, amounting to 17 kilometers in length (from a total of 47km studied). In these conditions, cattle escape and cause damage to crops or are lost.

FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH CONSTRUCTION NORMS

In addition to environmental impacts, it is important to stress the failure of the consortium to comply with construction regulations inside the Cayambe-Coca Reserve. In various sites, the right of way was larger than predicted, generally reaching 15 meters instead of the agreed 9 meters (slide 51.)

In kilometers 2 and 220 of the route the pipeline is buried at a depth of respectively 1.5 and 2 meters, in violation of the predicted 3 meter burial depth. This could have a major impact on the vegetation through temperature change (slide 52.)

CONCLUSION

We are concerned about environmental impacts caused by construction of the OCP pipeline, as well as human rights violations and the general lack of respect from the companies. But, what frightens us most is the failure to fulfill promises made only a few months ago. If contracts are not respected in the very early stages of construction, what can we expect throughout the next twenty years?

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