“What really upsets me is that they came to destroy our territory, our environment. Foreign criminals from oil companies are not welcome here. Our forest is a paradise because we’ve got everything that we need here. We don’t need money: with our rivers and our forests we have enough to live on. The money from the oil companies is useless to us. The companies have offered us clothes, candies at Christmas, but I haven’t accepted anything from them. We have to make clear to them what the integrity of indigenous people is about. We have to unite.” Cristina Gualinga, Quichua woman, Ecuadorian Amazon.
If the Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados (OCP) proceeds as planned, an international consortium will lay a 500-kilometre heavy crude pipeline from East to West through Ecuador. On the way, the OCP will pass through 11 protected areas and many populated areas, including cities and indigenous territories.
Most of the heavy crude oil transported by the OCP will come from Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve and home to the Huaorani indigenous people. Building the OCP will mean opening up Amazon forest in southern Ecuador, including the territories of indigenous groups such as the Quichua, Shuar and Achuar.
The pipeline will transport up to 450,000 barrels per day across nearly one hundred geologically-active fault lines and near several volcanoes, including the recently erupted Guagua Pichincha. It will pass through fragile areas of extreme ecological and agricultural importance, including the headwaters of rivers and streams, high-quality agricultural areas and primary tropical rainforest. It will also violate protected nature reserves, including Mindo, site of the highest bird density in South America.
To date, pipeline construction between Lago Agrio and Quito has affected more than 100 small farms. Landowners have suffered grave damages to their crops, grazing lands, and water supplies. According to a study carried out by Acción Ecológica/Friends of the Earth Ecuador, more than half of these farmers say they have been pressured into signing agreements with the OCP consortium.
The contract for pipeline construction was approved without an environmental impact study or consultation with the people to be affected by its construction, despite these being constitutionally required in Ecuador. The environmental impacts of the project were studied only after the project’s approval.
OCP Ecuador is a consortium of several transnationals: Agip, Alberta Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Perez Companc, REPSOL-YPF and Techint. The Argentinean company Techint will construct the pipeline at a cost of more than US$1.1 billion. Most of the pipeline’s financing will come from a banking consortium headed by the German bank West LB.
Local people, farmers and environmentalists carrying out provincial strikes, occupying trees and machinery, and blockading roads are increasingly countered with violence and repression. Despite international media attention to the negative implications of the project and global campaigning all over the world, however, the OCP seems likely to proceed as planned.
Facial marks help folks
Know members of the clan
Environmental scars traced
By seismic lines and illegal loggers
Alienate us from our land
Now we are strangers to our own soil
Pipes of conflict
Ducts of death
Pipes of blood
Facial marks beautify our folks
They help us attract and scare and show our strength
Environmental scars are death masks
Forced, alien, wicked, hateful
Slave marks, hellish scares
Alienate us from our land
Now, we are strangers to our own soil
Come together valiant souls
Drive off evil serpents from our land
Sacred that is our earth
Link those hands across the seas
Let’s block these ducts with our
These pipes of dreams
Of dollars and sorrows and tears
These ducts burrow into our hearts
These pipes dry our lands
These pipes drain our souls
These pipes steal our dreams
Dedicated to the people of Mindo, Ecuador
Nnimmo Bassey, FoE Nigeria