Ecuador’s megadiverse ecosystems continued to suffer serious impacts during the past 2022. The Amazon continued to succumb to oil spills, mining expansion, deforestation, and wildlife trafficking. Although these problems were replicated in other locations in the country such as El Oro, Esmeraldas, Imbabura and Guayas.
At the beginning of 2022, a spill of at least 6,300 barrels of oil was recorded due to the rupture of the Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline (OCP), as a consequence of the regressive erosion of the Coca River. This phenomenon is the result, say specialists, of a failure in the construction of the Coca Codo Sinclair Hydroelectric.
Oil spill would have already reached the Napo river, denounce environmentalists
Although remediation measures were applied, the impact of the contamination was brutal. The Ministry of the Environment indicated that the spill occurred within the Cayambe-Coca National Park, which is home to a wide variety of fauna and an important water reserve, and that it advanced to a river that supplies indigenous communities.
In September there was another spill that affected the Teteye River, in Sucumbíos. The spill was caused by a failure in the high pressure line of the Power Oil system belonging to block 56. Indigenous communities and species that use the tributary were seriously harmed.
Another of Ecuador’s debts with nature was the lack of control over the expansion of illegal mining and its great impact on nature. This year the ambition for gold contaminated the water of Yutzupino, in Napo, with mercury, diesel and gasoline.
There were about 240 pools that illegal miners used to wash stone material in search of gold in the community of Yutzupino, in Napo. These large wells have mercury-containing water and were dug on the banks of the Jatunyaku River. The environmental damage covered between 40 and 70 hectares. It is estimated that up to 4,000 people worked in the area extracting the metal. 124 backhoe loaders used in this activity were confiscated.
Ambition for gold contaminated the water of Yutzupino, in Napo, with mercury, diesel and gasoline, according to groups
Legal and large-scale mining has also been harshly questioned by environmental organizations this year. Despite the fact that this sector began to lead several macroeconomic indicators, they are accused of contaminating water, changing river channels, affecting key ecosystems and unleashing social conflicts. In addition, the lack of State personnel to carry out stricter and more continuous controls is questioned.
These extractive activities have driven deforestation. Although there are no updated official figures since 2018, the authorities and environmental organizations say that between 60,000 and 80,000 hectares are deforested throughout Ecuador. This figure is alarming, since it places the country among the leaders in deforestation in the region.
Jorge Villa, an analyst at Fundación Ecociencia, affirms that through satellite monitoring they have shown all these impacts in areas such as the Amazon. He adds that another of the events that have occurred is the opening of certain roads within the Amazon that may not have all the necessary environmental studies for their construction.
“Deforestation processes that are quite evident in satellite monitoring. Mining activities that are part of the impacts that have accelerated as a result of the pandemic and oil expansion, selective logging and similar processes have also been verified“, Add.
The new roads that are being built, apparently without permits or controls, are seriously affecting the ecosystems, since with roads, towns begin to form, heavy machinery traffic, human activity and wild species see how their natural habitat is reduced.
“These activities that are being developed in these areas with megadiverse ecosystems require prior authorizations and studies. This is so that the controls are complied with, although we have shown that with the passage of time these standards begin to be broken (by authorized companies).”, indicates. For the specialist, the impacted areas are very difficult to recover despite environmental remediation and the longer the extraction of resources is maintained, the more complex it will be to repair the damage to the area. .
Meanwhile, a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) revealed that 5,368 live wild animals, victims of trafficking, were confiscated in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil in the first half of 2022. 183 species are involved among birds , mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, which continue to be the object of the illegal wildlife trade in these countries. It is estimated that the number of confiscated animals had at least doubled by the end of the year.
It is estimated that the 5,368 living individuals that were retained were possibly destined for a pet market, private collections, or human consumption. Of these, 65.5% corresponded to reptiles, 23.8% to birds, 5.7% to mammals, 0.9% to amphibians and 3.9% to fish.
In 2022 several citizens were sentenced for trafficking and illegal possession of wild species. For example, in Quito, two people were sentenced to four years in prison and the payment of a fine of ten unified basic salaries (4,250 dollars) that they must pay in equal parts, for the possession and commercialization of two red footed tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonarius).
Gustavo Manrique, Minister of the Environment, Water and Ecological Transition, acknowledges the shortcomings in controls on oil and mining companies, and affirms that the great challenge of this 2023 will be to improve them so that ecosystems are not contaminated.
“What is pending is the control of illegal mining, without a doubt it is a challenge, but it is part of organized crime. We also have a lot to improve on logging controls. In the oil sector we have a challenge and controls must be improved. And we must increase environmental education“, He says. (YO)
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