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Oil development proposal violates international standards

Government and private Banks Must Prevent Damage in UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Dodgy deals
By WWF UK | Quito, Ecuador and Washington DC, May 8 2007
Scientists and conservationists from thirteen countries have urged President Correa of Ecuador, his Energy and Environment Ministers, Alberto Acosta and Ana Alban, and ten international banks to reconsider Brazilian oil company Petrobras’ current plan for oil drilling in Block 31, which encompasses key areas of Yasuní National Park. Yasuni is the crown jewel of the Ecuadorian mainland national park system. This park is an area of unique biological and scientific importance in the core of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is adjacent to territories for indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation which have been decreed to be untouchable.

In a nation-wide radio broadcast on February 3, President Correa said the government would suspend the contracts of oil companies that needlessly damage the environment. However, the Environmental Assessment (EA) of the current Petrobras project violates major requirements of accepted international good practice as well as the Equator Principles – a commitment by the world’s leading international private banks and investment companies not to finance large projects in the developing world if they do not meet key environmental and social standards of the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC).

An international alliance of 43 scientists from Ecuador, North America and Europe has proposed several critical, feasible design alternatives that would mitigate many of these risks and impacts. Of particular concern is the explicit acknowledgment in the EA that there is a substantial, "probable" risk that Waorani and Kichwa indigenous communities affected by the project will engage in physical protests and interventions that could lead to work stoppages and violence. There is also the inherent risk that the processing plant to be built near the Tiputini River on the northern border of the Park could have a catastrophic oil spill.

Continuation of the project without incorporating the proposed alternatives will have broad direct and secondary environmental and social impacts and will likely lead to major cultural changes among the indigenous communities in the region. Specifically, environmental impacts include deforestation, over-hunting, and pollution. Any contamination or pollution will be particularly damaging to the Tiputini River, home to rare mammals such as the globally endangered Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the globally vulnerable (and in Ecuador critically endangered) Amazonian Manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the globally vulnerable (and in Ecuador endangered) Pink River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), and the Gray River Dolphin (Sotalia fluviatilis), which is also endangered in Ecuador.

The project will also increase pressures on the indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation adjacent to Block 31. Forced contact and dependency with society and a serious threat of extermination could lead to more acute cycles of internal and external tribal war and irreparable damage to these peoples.

For further information go to the Dogdy Deals section

Bruce Rich - Environmental Defense - - +1 / 202 572 3334 Matt Finer - Save America's Forests - - +1 /202 544 1219 Nathalie Weemaels - Quito, Ecuador - - +593 /2 237 3293

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