Oil Drilling in Planet’s Most Biodiverse Area Gets Green Light

A view of the Yasuní National Park. (Photo: sara y tzunky/cc/flickr)

Ecuador gave the OK on Thursday to oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park, an area some consider the most biodiverse place in the world.

The authorization by Ecuador’s parliament follows President Correa’s announcement in August that the country was abandoning an innovative conservation plan to use international funds to not drill in the Amazonian nature preserve.

Matt Finer, a scientist at the U.S.-based Center for International Environmental Law, had called the conservation initiative “the lone exception to the relentless expansion of hydrocarbon projects deeper into the most remote tracts of the western Amazon.”

Now, however, two areas of the reserve will be open for fossil fuel exploitation.

The plans to bail out of the conservation plan have been met with strong opposition, and Reuters reports that 680,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum.

In addition, over 100 scientists from around the globe have voiced opposition to the oil drilling plans, issuing a statement to the Ecuadoran government in which they warn of threats to biodiversity and isolated tribes in the area.

Among the points the “Scientists Concerned for Yasuní” list in their letter are that

  • There are 153 amphibian species documented for Yasuní National Park—”a world record at the landscape scale.”
  • “A single hectare of forest in Yasuní National Park is estimated to contain at least 100,000 arthropod species, approximately the same number of insect species as is found throughout all of North America. This represents the highest estimated biodiversity per unit area in the world for any taxonomic group.”
  • “Oil – related activities and contamination may impact the Giant Otter and Amazonian Manatee, two Threatened large aquatic mammals. Both species have been documented in the Tiputini and Yasuní Rivers, which would likely be the principal access routes and infrastructure sites for oil development in ITT and Block 31.”

“Countless future generations will not understand why we carelessly destroyed the most biologically diverse areas of our planet, nor why we destroyed the indigenous cultures of people who lived in them,” stated Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “Yasuní is exceptionally rich in species and home to diverse cultures— including some living in voluntary isolation. Its protection defends nature and peoples: destroying it would be a particular tragedy.”


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