Indigenous Initiatives and Petroleum Politics in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Sawyer, S. (1996). Indigenous Initiatives and Petroleum Politics in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Cultural Survival Quarterly, 26-3

This piece by Suzana Sawyer examines the consequences of petroleum companies coming into the Ecuadorian Amazon and leading to detrimental effects for the locals. Texaco discovered a large oil reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon and soon the area became a gold mine. This operation has provided a lot of monetary benefits to the country, oil revenues make up about half of the national budget. However, more and more negative consequences are beginning to come to light. Experts found that the petroleum operations are causing about 4.3 million gallons of toxic waste to be released every day. This is contaminating the local water and causing the locals to contract skin and intestinal diseases as well as headaches and fevers. There have been conflict about who has rights to the land as local indigenous groups have come together to form OPIP, a group trying to halt the colonization of the area. The group is fighting with ARCO in order to gain rights to the land and stop the degradation of their environment and the damage to their local people. It has been a very slow process but the OPIP are slowly making progress in controlling processes that affect the livelihood of the local people and their environment. When western organizations arrive in local areas and try to manage the environment the local people usually suffer and that is the case here. Texaco is only worried about maintaining their profits and therefore, are not taking into consideration how their management of the environment is detrimental to the lives of the locals.