The Ecuadorean government has won new international support among Indigenous groups to prevent an illegal logging road from being carved in the the immaculate Amazon rainforest.
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The new ‘Management Committee for the Plan to Manage the Protected Forest Kutukú-Shaimi’, Comité de Gestión del Plan de Manejo del Bosque Protector Kutukú-Shaimi, made up of national communities and international groups met on Friday in Ecuador to assess the damage caused so far by the major road and discuss a way forward.
The Ecuadorean Environment Ministry is trying to prevent the local leader, known as a Prefectura, from digging the road deep into the Kutukú-Shaimi area of rainforest, in the prefect of Morona Santiago, east of the city of Macas, which was declared a Protected Forest in 1990.
But attempts at halting construction so far have been met with violence. After the Environment Ministry issued a suspension notice and tried to remove construction equipment, officials were threatened and two park wardens kidnapped.
The road already runs 25 kilometers into the protected rainforest, and serves the illegal logging industry.
Environment Minister Daniel Ortega visited the road in January.
“It was a shocking sight. The road is enormous, 10 meters wide instead of an ecological access route of less than 4 meters as agreed. All around me, ancient trees had been cut down and a complex and a biodiverse habitat had been laid to waste. The construction machinery was still there waiting to finish the job and open up that part of the Amazon to illegal logging,” he told the assembled group on Friday.
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“Families there deserve to have a modern environmentally sensitive access route to healthcare and work, but this huge highway is not the way. Violence and threats cannot be allowed to dictate what happens here.”
A small, low impact ecological access route was agreed to by the Ecuadorian government in 2001 to the town of Taisha, in the east of the country, which has a population of over 13,000. The route was agreed to with strict environmental restrictions in order to ensure the community had access to healthcare and other essential services but didn´t cause major deforestation or facilitate illegal trade in tropical hard wood.
But the construction of the new 10-meter-wide highway has seen around 108 hectares of forest on either side of the road cleared.
The Prefectura of Morona Santiago province, Marcelino Chumpi, of indigenous opposition party Pachakutik, remains defiant in his attempts to build the highway.
The new committee on Friday agreed on an emergency action plan to restore the areas affected by the road construction, a new environmental monitoring program and a medium term approach to the management of the protected area to ensure sustainable use of resources, equitable distribution of benefits and improved living conditions for the populations and communities involved.