Over the course of the last few decades, oil companies have been releasing billions of gallons of toxic pollutants and petroleum into the Amazon forest (the Oriente), posing a threat to both the environment and the health and welfare of the local Ecuadorian population. The presence of this oil production reflects problems in the Ecuadorian government and its policies, specifically exposing its disregard for basic human rights. More so, the Ecuadorian government’s failure to protect its people and prevent contamination of the Amazon is a direct violation of its citizens’ human rights to a healthy and safe environment. Oil producers, such as Texaco and Chevron, are given permission to operate on sacred land and conservation areas, dispossess indigenous groups, local people, and small farmers from their land, and lie about the impact of their projects. Because these companies and the government are not held accountable for their actions, the rights of local and indigenous people are constantly overridden.
The Oriente, home to hundreds of thousands of different animals and wildlife, is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. The Amazon is also inhabited by several indigenous groups who rely on the environment and resources from the Amazon to sustain their lifestyle. As the Oriente becomes an increasingly greater target for Ecuador’s oil production, the culture and lifestyle of these people has been put at risk. Since 1972, oil companies have extracted billions of barrels of crude area from the region, releasing toxic wastes directly into the environment in the process. Waste contaminates the water indigenous people drink and bathe in, kills off species of animals that are normally hunted for food, and destroys the environment that supports the life of many. Samples of this waste water have revealed amounts of toxic pollutants several levels higher than the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows. Additionally, the number of cases of cancer and oil-related diseases have spiked in recent years as exposure to oil sources increases. The people living near these areas of destruction are most often living in poverty or apart of indigenous groups or small businesses and must deal with the consequences of the destruction while big companies reap the benefits. The health risks posed to Ecuadorian people further indicate a direct violation of basic human rights due to oil production in the Oriente. This blatant injustice has led to tension and disagreements between oil companies, the Ecuadorian government, and a coalition of indigenous and environmental groups. The latter groups are battling for the survival of the rainforest and the biodiversity it sustains, as well as for the rights and justice of its indigenous inhabitants.
While Ecuadorian law recognizes the human right to health and a healthy environment, this is often overlooked by the government as global demand for petroleum increases and opportunities for economic profits arise. For several years, the Ecuadorian government allowed oil extraction to occur without any oversight. Even though some regulations have been put into place now, they are still flawed and not nearly as stringent as they should be. Many of the state agencies in charge of these environmental regulations lack the resources, information, and political support needed to truly implement their authority. Until these groups and agencies gain the power to correctly manage and enforce the existence of environmental and human rights, the Ecuadorian government will keep disregarding any environmental laws and human rights that hinder their economic success.
The purpose of this dossier is to demonstrate how Ecuador’s government and oil development policies in the Amazon have violated the human rights of indigenous and local people. Individuals and entire communities are being put at risk as their surrounding environment is destroyed by the irresponsible actions of oil companies. Ecuador’s focus on economic profit through the exploitation of natural resources completely ignores basic human rights and the importance of protecting the environment.
Find complete dossier here: HIS 161 Group 17 Final Dossier.
Group 17: Jesse Landesman, Christine Bayliss, Justin Courtney, and Hadley Roberts-Donnelly