Indigenous people are at a disadvantage in the battle to protect the rainforest from mining and oil extraction,. Governments have immense resources and explicit support from profit-hungry industries, racing to be allowed to operate at will in protected and untapped areas.
Ecuador is no different. Ever since Chevron (the oil company formerly known as Texaco) began work in the Amazon, the country’s section of the rainforest has borne witness to “one of the largest environmental disasters in history.” Soil and water sources have been poisoned, leading to death, illness and destruction among indigenous people and local wildlife.
Faced with the prospect of more oil extraction, the Waorani people decided to fight. And under the leadership of Nemonte Nenquimo, supported by Mitch Anderson and the charity Amazon Frontlines, they took their plight to the Ecuadorian courts.
Somewhat surprisingly, the tribe of just 2,000 people were successful in the legal battle. Judges concluded that almost half a million acres of rainforest should be protected indefinitely from oil companies, against the wishes of the Ecuadorian Government.
Nemo — President of the Waorani Pastaza Organization — said the legal battle was a “victory for my ancestors”. “It’s for our forest and future generations,” she added in a video. “And it’s for the whole world.”
The figurehead then travelled to a United Nations event in Switzerland to raise awareness about the ongoing violation of indigenous and Amazonian rights on a global stage.
“We’re here, in the United Nations, because the Ecuadorian government said that they are advancing with the petrol exploitation in the Amazon, whatever happens,” Nenquimo said in a statement on Twitter.
“If our judicial victory prevents the government from selling our lands to petrol companies for the time being, our fight is to keep the Waorani in Pastaza territory free from petrol for ever. We have the right to decide, and this is our decision.”Tags: Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador, Oil, Tribes