National and Amazon-region Indigenous federations and communities in Ecuador have launched a global campaign and have filed legal actions demanding that the flow of crude oil through Ecuador’s major pipelines be suspended. The federations are supported by Amazon Frontlines, COICA and a coalition of regional international human rights organisations.
On April 7, the country’s SOTE and OCP pipelines ruptured as a result of neglecting to address erosion on the Coca and Napo rivers. Indigenous groups affected by the spill filed a lawsuit asking for clean up, redress and an end to oil company impunity, however the court case has been indefinitely suspended since June. Erosion and massive landslides are threatening a second oil spill, which would contaminate rivers flowing into Peru and Brazil.
In light of this, Kichwa communities have filed dozens of lawsuits demanding court-ordered injunctions to immediately shut down the oil pipelines until safety is restored to the area.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous people have called for the suspension of all resource extraction in the Amazon. A suspension of the SOTE and OCP pipelines would equate to a suspension of all oil production in Ecuador at a time when Indigenous communities living along the pipeline are dually threatened by the pandemic and oil contamination. Half of the oil produced at these pipelines are shipped to refineries in California and Washington.
Gregorio Mirabel, General Coordinator of COICA, says, “Oil spills and poison in our rivers are caused by corporations that plunder and line their pockets and governments that promote the exploitation of resources in the Amazon Basin. When our Indigenous brothers and sisters are threatened for these reasons, we are all threatened. COICA will not let them fight alone. We are here to fight together for our rights.”
Ongoing resource extraction has accelerated the spread of COVID-19 in the world’s most biodiverse tropical rainforest. According to the Pan-American Health Organization, the virus has infected at least 20 000 people in Indigenous communities of the Amazon. Indigenous peoples are the first line of defense for the Amazon rainforest. At the first World Assembly for the Amazon in July, Indigenous organisations from Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guyana and Suriname called for a moratorium on extractive activities to confront toxic contamination, raging fires, loss of territory and biodiversity, climate change and, now, infection.
Mitch Anderson, Executive Director of Amazon Frontlines, says, “For too long, oil companies have acted with total impunity in Ecuador. Now, with a global pandemic raging, climate change accelerating, and the survival of thousands of Indigenous peoples at risk, it is imperative that the Ecuadorian court impose an immediate suspension of the country’s oil pipelines to avoid another disaster. It’s time to stand with Indigenous peoples, who put their own lives on the line every day to protect our planet’s best natural defense against climate change, the Amazon rainforest.”
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This article comes from the frontline activities of Amazon Frontlines, whose mission it is to support indigenous peoples to defend their rights to land, life and cultural survival in the Amazon Rainforest.
Amazon Frontlines is a non-profit organisation based in Lago Agrio, Ecuador that leverages technology, legal advocacy and movement building to support indigenous peoples to defend their rights to land, life and cultural survival in the Amazon Rainforest. For more information, visit www.amazonfrontlines.org.
Global Wildlife Conservation
GWC conserves biodiversity on Earth through the safeguarding of wildlands and wildlife protection. It engages in biodiversity exploration, habitat conservation, protected area management, wildlife crime prevention and endangered species recovery. For more information, visit https://globalwildlife.org.
Featured image by: Fibonacci Blue