The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Ecuadorian National park Yasuni is one of the most biodiverse place on Earth and home of the voluntary isolated tribe Taromenane. But that’s not what oil companies and loggers appreciate about it. It is estimated to contain approximately 846 million barrels of crude oil, approximately 20% of the country’s proven oil reserves. That represents a lot of money, for both the Oil companies and the government of Ecuador.
So what can you do when you have to find money to finance the « Revolucion Ciudadana », but you are also committed to protect the environment of your country? Well, Correa managed to find a solution: the government of Ecuador proposed a permanent ban on oil production inside the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field in exchange for 50% of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion over 13 years to be raised from public and private contributions from the international community. This is the Yasuni-ITT initiative, officially launched in 2010.
So, a couple of years later, what is the status of the project? Well, as Nat Geo related in its 2013 January issue, by mid-2012 only about $200 million had been pledged, even though countries such as Germany, Spain and Italy are supporting the initiative. And it is an issue, as president Correa explains it to Nat Geo: « Ecuador is a poor country. We still have children without schooling. We need health care, decent housing. We lack many things. What would suit the country most would be to exploit the resource. But we also understand our responsibility in the fight against global warming, the principal cause of which is the burning of fossil fuels. That’s the dilemma. »
Today, in Paris, the Ecuadorian Minister of Non-renewable Natural Resources was having a meeting with some French oil companies. His goal? Selling the oil of the Amazon to the highest bidder. He was in Houston in February, and will be in Beijing in March. What can we do about that? Well, the only way I know of is to sign the petition on the Avaaz website. But there may be other ways to protest.
If you want to know what we would lose if Oil companies get the last word, check this video of the five National Geographic photographers on their trip to Yasuni….