Inspenet, August 22, 2023.
Ecuador established a new world precedent last Sunday by opting through a plebiscite to put an end to oil exploitation in the Amazon, specifically in one of its largest deposits located in the Yasuní National Park. This park is considered the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon and one of the points of greatest biodiversity in the world.
With almost 58% of the votes counted, the 59.14% of the Ecuadorian population voted in favor of stopping operations in Block 43-ITT, in contrast to the 40.86% who spoke out against suspending activity in the field managed by the state company Petroecuador.
The result represents a clear victory for Yasunidos, an environmental group that promoted this referendum at the national level with the purpose of preserving Yasuní, an area extremely vulnerable to oil spills, as well as to protect indigenous communities in voluntary isolation who reside in the National Park.
This decision represents a significant victory for the indigenous movement, which was mostly in favor of “Yes”, especially the Waorani people, the largest ethnic group inhabiting the Yasuní, a natural reserve one million hectares in size.
It should be noted that within this protected area, more than 2,000 species of trees and shrubs, 204 mammals, 610 birds, 121 reptiles, 150 amphibians and more than 250 fish have been identified. In addition, it is home to the Tagaero, Taromenane and Dugakaeri, indigenous communities that have chosen to live in voluntary isolation.
This result creates a period of uncertainty for the country, since it will have to stop using a field that produces 55,000 barrels of oil daily, which is equivalent to 11% of the national crude oil production .
The responsibility for implementing the cessation of operations in Block 43-ITT will fall on the next government, which will be elected in the second round of the presidential elections.
The halting of oil exploitation operations in the Amazon
According to the decision of the Constitutional Court that approved the holding of the referendum, the State has a period of one year to dismantle the facilities, a period that, according to Petroecuador, is practically impossible due to the works and procedures necessary to close the wells. and dismantle the structures.
According to government estimates, the suspension of operations in Block 43-ITT will cause damage to the State of 1,200 million dollars a year in income from the sale of oil, which could amount to 13,800 million dollars in a period of 20 years.
The Government’s calculation also includes a cost of 500 million dollars for the dismantling of the facilities, which had a construction cost close to 2,000 million dollars .
However, environmental groups argue that the economic effect will be considerably reduced and that the exploitation of a heavy oil such as Yasuní could become economically viable in the near future, as the value of oil declines. Therefore, they consider that these incomes could be compensated through the implementation of a wealth tax.
Petroecuador always affirmed that, since the beginning of operations in 2016, the exploitation of Block 43-ITT had been carried out following the most rigorous environmental standards to preserve the fragile ecological environment in which it is located.
Among the practices employed was the cluster drilling technique, which allowed multiple wells to be drilled in different directions from the same platform, thus avoiding the need to build multiple platforms for each well, which would have increased deforestation. In total, the facilities occupy only 80 hectares.
To date, no oil spills into the environment had been reported from the facilities of Block 43-ITT, which is the most recent and productive in Yasuní. Although oil has been extracted in the National Park since the 1980s in Blocks 16, 31 and 67, these are not affected by this referendum.