SEE ALSO JUNE 11 2004 OPEN LETTER TO PETROBRAS FROM YASUNI FOR EVER CAMPAIGN, ACCIÓN ECOLOGICA and OILWATCH
URGENT ACTION ALERT
ECUADOR, APRIL 2004
YASUNI NATIONAL PARK AT PERIL
The integrity of the Yasuní National Park, one of the places with the most endemism and biodiversity in the world, depends upon the granting of an environmental license that Petrobras is trying to get from the Ministry of Environment.
Spreading over 982,000 hectares, Yasuní is one of the largest national parks in the continent. It is a world biosphere reserve and, furthermore, it is the land of the Huaorani Pueblo, which is being exterminated by oil companies.
Ten oil companies have already affected an important portion of the park: Maxus, Perez Compac, Elf, and Vintage have environmental responsibilities because they have caused damages. Repsol-YPF, Encana, Oxy, Petroecuador and Petrobras are currently operating there. Each of these companies have claimed in their respective studies that there would not be any environmental impacts, that leading-edge technology was a guarantee and that the rights of the Huaorani people would be secured.
We now see the results: a great portion of the park has been destroyed, a very high percentage of the Huaorani people suffers from hepatitis B and other illnesses. The Huaorani depend on charity to survive, because besides having their forests destroyed, they are not allowed to hunt. Some Huaorani and Kichwas were led to settle alongside the highway, to work on its construction, and they are currently in the middle of conflicts over land.
From an environmental point of view, an exotic variety of African grass was introduced, thousands of hectares were deforested and the rivers have been polluted. All these damages should be evaluated before these projects continue.
Currently Petrobras is trying to obtain its environmental license to develop its oil-drilling activities at the heart of the Yasuní National Park. A road, a pipeline and an enormous separation and processing station will be built.
This project will be developed for absurd reasons. It is not economically profitable, but since the wells have already been drilled, what they want to do is take advantage of the investment to drill the little oil they contain. The technology they intend to use is the cheapest and most polluting one available: effluent discharges, on-site burial of drilling waste, highway construction, a pipeline that is partially underground, incinerators, etc.
The scientific stations of 2 private universities, the Universidad de San Francisco and the PUCE, both established inside the park, have negotiated the rights of all Ecuadorians in exchange for 3.5 million dollars and an exclusion area of 5 km around their facilities. They have approved an environmental impact study that is not only poor and incomplete, but is also filled with ambiguities.
We are still in time to stop the environmental license. Please help us show that there are many of us who are committed to nature and the indigenous peoples.
Please send your letter to:
Ministro de Ambiente
Teléfono: 593 2 256-3462
Fax: 593 2 250-0041
And to: Vinicio Valarezo, Sub Secretary of the Ministry of Environment
Please send a copy to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Quito, April 28, 2004
MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT
Through this letter we would like to manifest our deep preoccupation about the situation of the Yasuní National Park and the new threats to its integrity. We know that Petrobras wants to enter into Block 31, which is at the heart of the park.
We know that the Environmental Impact Study presented by Petrobras is incomplete and that it does not comply with Ecuadorian law. We know that it contains errors, ommisions and ambiguities; furthermore, it contradicts the true plans of the company which are to build ALL its infrastructure within the national park and using the worst technology.
We join the public demand to have an independent environmental audit before going on with the project to assess the impact of the oil-drilling activities which are already being done inside Yasuní National Park, and which have generated accusations of severe environmental and social problems that need to be verified.
We find it intolerable that international oil companies intend to gain the right to go over and beyond the law by giving “donations” to communities and research centers. The Yasuní National Park is, as we know, a protected area of critical importance for Ecuador, and for the rest of the world, which is why it was declared a World Biosphere Reserve.
As foreign citizens, we will demand oil companies in our countries to withdraw from the park if it is proved that their activities cause environmental destruction or damage collective rights, and we ask you to please REFUSE granting an environmental license for this new concession, since there are no guarantees for environmental conservation.
Also, please send a letter to the Minister of Environment of Brazil (see model letter below), asking her to intercede with the Ecuadorian Environment Minister, requesting her not to issue the Environmental Licence.
Ms. Marina Silva
MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT
REPUBLIC OF BRAZIL
Dear Ms. Minister,
We would like to express our concern in relation with the plans of Petrobras to initiate oil drilling and exploitation in the Ecuadorean Amazon, in the nucleus zone of the Yasuní National Park.
The Yasuní National Park is the most important National Park of continental Ecuador. In the Park, 107 species of reptiles and 111 of amphibians there have been identified. In all the Chilean territory there are 39 species of reptiles and 78 of amphibians. The tree species number is estimated at 2500 species. The world record of tree species per unit of area has being registered in the Yasuní Park.
In the Environmental Impact Study, carried out for Petrobras by the consultancy firm Walsh, it was found that in a plot of forest of 0,25 Ha. 95 species of plants were registered. The soils of the Yasuní are of extreme ecological fragility, due to the presence of Amazonian flood forests.
But its importance is not only related with biodiversity. The Yasuní is the home of the Huaorani People, who are endangered due to the activities of oil companies in their territory: seven oil companies are exploiting oil inside their territory, and as a result they have suffered deep cultural changes and have become very dependent on the "good will" of the companies in order to survive. Medical studies reveal that a high percentage of the Huaorani population suffers of hepatitis B, disease introduced by oil workers.
Organizations in Ecuador are requesting the elaboration of an environmental auditing on the impact of oil operations in the Yasuní National Park, before extending the oil frontier toward the nucleus zone of the park.
Dear Minister: you are an inhabitant of the Amazon; you know the strong impacts that certain types of "development" produce in the ecosystem and in the life of the peoples in the Amazon. We are aware of your sensibility towards people and the environment. For such reasons, we ask you to intercede in this case with your homologous in Ecuador in order to avoid a decision which will contribute to deteriorate the environmental image of Brazil, and also, to share with Petrobras our concerns.