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  • The Amazon Sacred Headwaters region is the birthplace of the Amazon river but also home to more than 500,000 Indigenous people from over 20 nationalities.

    The Amazon Sacred Headwaters region is the birthplace of the Amazon river but also home to more than 500,000 Indigenous people from over 20 nationalities. | Photo: EFE/ José Jacome

Published 12 August 2020
Opinion

About 120.000 Ecuadorean people living near rivers, 27.000 of them Indigenous, have lost their freshwater, livestock, and produce and some of them suffer "documented skin diseases caused by crude oil from swimming in the rivers before they knew about the spill." 

A group of European banks has financed the oil trade from the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region in Ecuador to the U.S. for about 10 billion dollars during the last decade, according to a report published on Wednesday by environmental organizations Stand.earth and Amazon Watch.

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The North-American based organizations say that ING Belgium, Credit Suisse, UBS, and BNP Paribas (Suisse) SA in Geneva, Switzerland; Natixis in Paris, France; and Rabobank in Utrecht, Netherlands are responsible for 85 percent of all bank-financed trade out of the 19 banks assessed.

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters region is the birthplace of the Amazon river but also home to more than 500,000 Indigenous people from over 20 nationalities. It spans about 30 million hectares in Ecuador and Peru, and it is considered one of the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems on the planet.

The report highlights that the oil industry is having a devastating impact on the region. About 120.000 Ecuadorean people live near rivers, 27.000 of them Indigenous, they have lost their freshwater, livestock, and produce. Some of them suffer "documented skin diseases caused by crude oil from swimming in the rivers before they knew about the spill." This, amid all the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the organizations denounced that drilling for fossil fuels in the most biodiverse rainforest on the planet is causing deforestation and facilitating the violation of Indigenous peoples' rights as well as jeopardizing the survival of its culture.

The investigation points out that from 2009 to May 2020, private financial institutions have provided "trade financing for approximately 155 million barrels of oil from the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador to refineries in the United States, worth about $10 billion."

Nevertheless, the environmental organizations recalled that "nearly all of these banks are also signatories to the Equator Principles and all are signatories to the UN Environment Program Finance Initiative's Principles of Responsible Banking."

"Any bank committed to protecting Indigenous and human rights should be concerned about financing the trade oil from this region," the reports warned that the rainforest and its inhabitants are still suffering the consequences of a massive oil spill in the Coca river in Ecuador in March this year.

Moreover, there is an ongoing oil spill in Peru. This adds to the devastation caused by the company Chevron, which spilled about 17 million gallons of crude oils over the decades.

"Without these banks, Amazon oil would not flow readily to international markets," the organizations explained. "Even as they divest from dirty oil and coal projects in other
regions, they continue to support the destruction and degradation of the Amazon rainforest through their trade financing," it added.

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