A six-year initiative to protect a vital part of the most biodiverse region on Earth has come to an end in Ecuador. President Rafael Correa announced yesterday that the Yasuni-ITT project, which asked governments and organisations around the world to support Ecuador financially in return for keeping oil in the ground, is no longer viable.
The Yasuni rainforest forms part of the Amazon basin and is home to thousands of species of birds, insects and mammals. Including the olinguito, the first new mammal identified for 35 years. Drilling could begin within weeks in an area which is still home to indigenous tribes who choose to remain uncontacted.
I hesitated before writing this as I know many will think as a ‘gringo’ I have little right to comment on what happens in another country. Oil exploration could bring more jobs to a developing country which still has many people living below the poverty line.
But I think sometimes there is value in speaking up. My opinion may not count for much, I’m not someone with much impact in the world (online or otherwise). But I have visited the area recently and talked to people living there. Of course environmentalists are likely to offer a very different view to those who need jobs. But oil spills and their lasting environmental impact are nothing new in Ecuador. When I was in the country in June people were still talking about a recent oil spill that was heading down river towards Peru and Brazil, who were both concerned about the impact on local people and wildlife.
Amazon Watch, an environmental campaign group, are following developments closely. To find out more, visit their website: