Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The battle begins again: The fight to protect Yasuni National Park

Yasuni National Park

Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is arguably the most biologically diverse area in the world. Scientists have documents over 596 different species of birds, just in that one corner of the Amazon rainforest. There are 150 amphibians, a world record for an area this size. In fact, they go on to say that "there are more species of frogs and toads within Yasuni (an area approximately 9,820 square kilometers) than are native in the United States and Canada combined".

It also houses approximately 800 million barrels of crude oil, some 20 per cent of Ecuador's reserves. In 2010, scientists and environmentalists urged President Rafael Correa to leave the 800 million barrels untouched and the Yasuni Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (Yasuni ITT) Initiatve was launched. 

The deal was that in exchange for the government's indefinite restrain from exploiting the oil reserve in the park, the international community would provide 50 percent of the value of the reserves, or some $3.6billion over the 13 year period of the initiative. The aim was to conserve biodiversity, protect indigenous peoples living in volutnary isolation and avoid the release of 407 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In addition it would save 800 million metric tonnes of emissions from the avoided deforestation.

Broken promises

Then on Thursday, 15 August 2013, a mere six years after the Yasuni-ITT Initiative was launched, President Correa in a nationwide address on radio and television explained the initiative had only attracted investment of US$13.3million, instead of the US$3.6billion Ecuador needs to compensate for lost oil revenues.

In his address, President Correa said, "I think the initiative was ahead of the times, and could not or would not be understood by those responsible for climate change."

"Unfortunately, we have to say that the world has failed us," said the President, adding that the launch of the initiative coincided with the worst global economic crisis in 80 years.

This speech was, interestingly portended by Alberto Acosta, Ecuador's former energy minister who unsuccessfully ran against Correa in February. "If Correa wins, the ITT initiative will be dropped. The infrastructure is already in place to exploit the oil," warned Acosta in a campaign speech. "He's preparing to blame rich nations for not giving enough to make it work." Oil companies including PetroEcuador are preparing to drill and roads are being built on the margins of the formerly protected area - in known jaguar habitat.
The problem for President Correa is that his move is in breach of the Ecuadorian Constitution, enacted in 2008 to recognise the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, which gives people the authority to petition on behalf of ecosystems and requires government to remedy violations of these rights. 

All hope is therefore not yet lost. With rights of nature protected unequivocally in the Ecuadorian Constitution, it is now up to the Ecuadorian people, with the support of the global community to use every legal means to fit the oil drilling in Yasuni National Park.

What you can do:

Write a Letter to President Correa.

Sign the petition in support of the Huaorani.

Share this video to drive home the message of why it's important to act - no matter where you are in the world.

Spread the word through every network you have available! In the age of social media, we can be heard far and wide. Make what you say count on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (wherever!).

Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Al Gore were part of the initial campaign, and now you have the opportunity to add your voice to the chorus to save Yasuni.

If you share in the comments below I'll do my best to share it on Twitter too.


  1. How beautiful and hopefully not tragic in the end.

  2. We can only hope that greed will not win in the end. President Correa has said the Ecuadorian people will need 60,000 signatures to appeal his unilateral decision.

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