April 29, 2021

Amazon Headwaters – a spatial risk perspective


The Oriente basin in the Western Amazon is one of South America's most productive on-shore oil production basins (Dashwood and Aboots, 1990). Ecuador is the world's 18th oil producing country in the world and has estimated reserves of 8 billion barrels of oil. Oil blocks currently cover approximately 68% (68,196 km2) of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The incredibly biodiverse Yasuni National Park region has an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of crude oil - 40 percent of Ecuador's reserves alone.  Peru has proven oil reserves of approximately 683 million barrels of oil, of which roughly half are in the Amazon basin, though recent statements made by the government are as high as 3.1 billion barrels.


The Amazon rain forest of Peru and Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, with extreme richness in species, habitats and ecosystems (Myers et al.2000; Bass et al. 2010; Jenkins et al. 2013). Wide spread “flaring ” of gas, especially in Ecuadorian oil fields is highly problematic for biodiversity and public health. Additional noxious fumes emitted by flaring may include, aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylenes) and benzo(a)pyrene, which are known to be carcinogenic. Flaring can affect wildlife by attracting birds and insects to the flame.

Spills from wells, pipelines and storage facilities are frequent. In April, 2020 at least 15,000 gallons of oil and fuel from two ruptured pipelines caused widespread contamination of the Napo and Coca rivers. In the map below clearly shows the location prior to the spill and the pipeline crossing the San Rafael river that washed it out. 


The image below shows a set of oil extraction sites in the active river bed.


A collision between fossil fuel development and indigenous communities

The Ceibo Alliance is an indigenous-led Ecuadorian non-profit organization comprised of members of the Kofan, Siona, Secoya and Waorani peoples, who, in partnership with Amazon Frontlines, is creating a model of indigenous resistance and international solidarity rooted in the defense of indigenous territory, cultural survival, and the building of viable solutions-based alternatives to rain forest destruction. The map below highlights existing oil blocks and their overlap with Indigenous Territories and Protected Areas in Eastern Ecuador. Areas highlighted in red indicate visible satellite based evidence of oil development inside indigenous territories and/or protected areas.

The image below clearly shows oil well development and storage facilities within the Indigenous Territory of the Waorani Nation.