Indigenous communities in the Amazon region of Ecuador have been suffering from a lack of clean water after a massive oil spill-- the biggest in the area since 2004-- polluted their local rivers. With this, the tribes have filed a lawsuit against the government and oil companies involved.
The pollution in Orellana Province near the Peruvian border came after a landslide on April 7, which caused three ruptured pipelines. As a result, 15 000 barrels of oil spilled into nearby rivers, including Amazon tributary, the Napo.
"The families living on the river banks are lacking food and no longer know where to find water to drink, or with which to bathe," said Marcia Andi, a Kichwa and leader of the Mushuk Llacta community.
About 27 000 people from the tribes of Kichwa and Shuar residing along the Coca and Napo rivers are affected by the spill, according to Amazon Frontlines NGO lawyer, Maria Espinosa.
Before + after the massive oil spill into the Coca river in Ecuador's Amazon (April 7). Crude has heavily polluted food and water sources of the Indigenous communities living downstream. The government must clean this up and protect the health + livelihoods of all those affected. pic.twitter.com/VPShAMxEgX— Richard Pearshouse (@RPearshouse) May 1, 2020
In response to the recent oil spill in the Ecuadorian #Amazon, affected families & indigenous orgs have filed a lawsuit against the State & responsible oil companies demanding #JusticefortheAmazon— AFrontlines (@AFrontlines) April 29, 2020
Listen to this first-hand account by a lead plaintiff in the case, Carlos Jipa. pic.twitter.com/IgP3eALHZT
The victims are seeking prompt measures to guarantee a supply of water, food, and access to health, Espinosa said, adding that assistance previously provided was insufficient for the communities' necessities.
PetroEcuador, a state oil company involved in the lawsuit, said it had provided around 500 000 liters (110 000 gallons) of water in containers to 59 indigenous communities.
The company also stated that one of its damaged pipelines had been repaired, and it had started environmental cleanup that also included the Quijos River.
OCP Ecuador, which was also involved in the suit, owned one of the damaged pipelines.
Indigenous communities fishing and water sources seriously affected by an #oilspill in the Coca River, and affluent of the #Amazon in Ecuador. There have been dozens of similar oil spills by SOTE with little accountability. https://t.co/llIzUJKJCZ— Awasqa: Green Network Project (@AwasqaP) April 9, 2020
Indigenous peoples have filed a lawsuit against #Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy @RecNaturalesEC & others for worst oil spill in decades. Please RT to stand with indigenous communities & @DDHH_Alianza @AFrontlines @Confeniae1 to demand #JusticefortheAmazon https://t.co/Z96QWCzItA pic.twitter.com/PvlQNrPZ2w— AFrontlines (@AFrontlines) April 29, 2020
"Although the rupture of the pipelines was not intentional, the authorities and companies named in the lawsuit were acting negligently and omitting information about the situation," said Espinosa as communities also accuse the companies of not informing them.
Adding to the suffering of the community is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 30 000 people in the country. "We don't go to the village. We eat the fish we manage to catch in the river and now we have been hit by this oil spill," said one resident.
Oil Spill in Ecuador Update— Amazon Watch (@amazonwatch) April 13, 2020
Our friends at @fundacionlabaka went to the Napo and Coca Rivers to document the oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Retweet to spread the word about the massive water contamination by @EPPETROECUADOR #EndAmazonCrude #derramecrudoamazonía pic.twitter.com/rzRVLFuRyM
Featured image credit: Telmo Ibarburu