Ecuador will reluctantly allow drilling for oil in its prized Yasuni National Park after years spent hoping it would be able to sidestep such a move.
The nation threw out a worldwide appeal in 2007 for funds for a conservation plan which would leave the park’s vast oil reserves in the ground.
However its President Rafael Correa announced last week that the country’s National Assembly will be able to authorise mining activity as long as it “cannot develop in an area greater than one-thousandth of Yasuni National Park territory”.
The decision will be a blow for many both in Ecuador and environmentalists around the world. International groups such as the Earth Day Network campaigned to save the area from oil drilling.
That’s because the huge stretch of the Amazonian basin is not only the site of Ecuador’s second largest reserve of crude oil but also home to communities of hunter-gatherers known as the Waorani. Evidence also suggests the Yasuni forest has the highest number of species in the planet.
However the Ecuadorean leader said the country’s conscience should be “clear” as the oil money will pay for future generations.
He said the Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) field in the Yasuni region which holds an estimated 920 million barrels of oil will earn more than $292 million (£187m) based on current oil prices, millions of dollars more than originally expected.
President Correa said in a speech over the weekend: “We cannot do more without serious harm to the welfare of our [Yasuni National Park] people. History will judge us… We have a clear conscience: Yasuní-ITT has been the most serious and concrete proposal in the fight against climate change but we need to ensure our people, our people, especially the poorest.”
Image copyright: Josh Bousel