AMERICA/ECUADOR - Oil pipeline breakage: disaster for populations and territory

Monday, 20 April 2020 human rights   indigenous   amazon   area crisis  


Aguarico (Agenzia Fides) - An ecological disaster that affects local populations and the territory: Mgr. José Adalberto Jiménez Mendoza, bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Aguarico (Ecuador), has reported with concern the breakage, which occurred on April 7, of a section of the Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline (OCP) within the Trans-Ecuatorian Oil Pipeline System (SOTE), considered as the main route through which oil is transported to Ecuador. The disaster has a heavy impact especially on a hundred communities in Napo, Orellana and northern Peru. "We are deeply concerned about our communities and ask the State and society to become sensitive and responsible in defending the common home", said Mgr. Jiménez in a message sent to Fides.
According to the prelate's complaint, the communities affected by the contamination were not promptly informed. The delay in reporting the disaster was disseminated by the managers of the Petroecuador company and by the national government: they only spoke of a "reduction of the pressure in the pipeline would affect the functioning of the SOTE System", without mentioning the breakage of the pipeline and the consequent oil spill.
Meanwhile, Bishop Mendoza reports that containment measures, which are extremely urgent, have not yet been adopted to stop the spill of crude oil, which has reached the waters of the River Coca and Napo, causing serious ecological and environmental effects. If we add to oil pollution the difficult situation generated by the Covid-19 pandemic, we note that "the local communities are suffering from the deterioration of their health, the loss of their food guarantees and social stability".
The pipeline broke on April 7, apparently due to natural events in the areas surrounding the San Rafael waterfall, between Napo and Sucumbíos. According to initial estimates, 4,000 barrels of crude oil have generated a spill in the Napo and Coca rivers. About 100 communities in the area remained without water for a few days and still today specialized cleaning works are carried out to restore the main services in the area.
Efforts have been made to hide or minimize the incident and only the institutions of the Church have openly denounced the fact with its terrible consequences. The Episcopal Conference of Ecuador gave much space to the letter of denunciation published by the Apostolic Vicariate of Aguarico which reports the critical situation in the area. Other complaints also came from the Red Eclesial Panamazonica (REPAM) and the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana (Confeniane). (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 20/4/2020)