Ecuador oil spill affects 47 indigenous communities

Ecuador’s trans-Andean Heavy Crude Pipeline (OCP) is back on line following a rupture that spilled 14,000 barrels in the Amazon region. The pipeline was shut for seven days following the Feb. 24 leak near the rainforest community of Santa Rosa, Napo province. Specialists were mobilized to the region to contain the oil slick that contaminated local waterways. But Marlon Santi, leader of Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), said, “There are 47 communities affected, the situation is grave.”

“It has paralyzed fishing, it has paralyzed the normal activities of the commuities,” Santi said, saying waterways in both Napo and Sucumbios provinces had been contaminated. In addition to an “urgent contingency” to remediate the damage, Santi called for “sanctions” against the company that operated the pipeline.

Ana Rivas, mayor of Francisco de Orellana, capital of the jungle province of Orellana on the Napo Rover, called the spill an “environmental and socio-economic catastrophe.” Rivas told EcuadorInmediato radio: “It’s affected our people, our animals—all the flora and fauna—because the river is our lifeblood and our people’s source of water.” Rivas told EcuadorInmediato radio Tuesday.

The Quito environmental group Acción Ecológica joined in calling for punishment of those responsible for the spill and for compensation to the impacted local communities. The OCP carries crude from oilfields in the Amazon region to Ecuador’s coast for several foreign companies, including China’s Andes Petroleum, Spain’s Repsol-YPF, Brazil’s parastatl Petrobras and the French Perenco. (AFP, March 4; AP, March 3)

Orellana province, lying to the east of Napo, was created in 1998 as population in the rainforest region burgeoned. Its territory was prior to that time the eastern half of Napo province. The Río Napo is the major waterway of both provinces. (

Ecuador’s state oil company PetroEcuador took over Occidental Petroleum’s 14.15% stake in the OCP when the California-based multinational had its contract canceled by Ecuador in 2006 following accusations that it had sold part of an oil block without official authorization. The company rejected the charges and launched an international legal challenge to the seizure. (Financial Express, May 25, 2006)

See our last post on Ecuador and the struggle for the Amazon.

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