Indigenous Communities Take Ecuador to Court to Protect the Amazon

Indigenous Communities Take Ecuador to Court to Protect the Amazon

Earlier this year, Ecuador's new President Guillermo Lasso issued decrees to expand oil and mining projects in the Amazon. Indigenous communities from the country's rainforest are now suing the government in an effort to stop these projects, calling them a "policy of death," according to reporting by Reuters. Community leaders are asking Ecuador's Constitutional Court -- the highest in the country -- to nullify the decrees and stop the projects from moving forward.

"The Ecuadorian government sees in our territory only resource interests," said Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo outside the court. "Our territory is our decision, and we'll never allow oil or mining companies to enter and destroy our home and kill our culture."

Why This Matters

First and foremost, drilling for oil or mining minerals in the Ecuadorian Amazon is a direct threat to the dozens of Indigenous communities who live there. These extractive processes poison the water and air around them. Indigenous communities are also most likely to experience climate impacts because of their close relationship with the natural world. And on a global scale, clearing parts of the Amazon to extract oil or set up mining operations is counter-productive to global climate goals.

Ecuador's Indigenous Communities Have Been Here Before

Former President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno pushed to expand copper mining. But Indigenous communities filed complaints and marched against the project, saying that they weren't adequately consulted.

As Josefina Tunki, president of the Shuar-Arutam, told Reuters last December: "The government approved concessions years ago without providing information and without the knowledge of the Shuar-Arutam people. The people have said 'no' to having this large-scale extractivist company in our territory."

The mining project was contentious from the beginning, when its first camp in 2016 displaced eight families and wiped Nankints, an ancestral village, off the map.

Brut: Indigenous Women Are Leading the Fight to Save the Amazon, September 11, 2019.

NASA: Tracking Amazon Deforestation, April 19, 2021.