New website tracks human rights impact of oil pollution in Ecuador, Nigeria, and USA

posted by Rainforest Action Network

A piece run by CBS News back in July asserted:

“If you live on the Gulf Coast, welcome to the real world of oil — and just know that you’re not alone.  In the Niger Delta and the Ecuadorian Amazon, among other places, your emerging hell has been the living hell of local populations for decades.”

This is just one of several articles pointing out the parallels between the Gulf oil spill and Chevron’s toxic legacy in the Ecuadorean Amazon, many of which were cited in the new “Human rights impacts of oil pollution” web portal created by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. The site focuses on the toll oil pollution has taken on the people and ecosystems of the US Gulf Coast, Ecuador, and Nigeria.

The parallels between the situations on the Gulf Coast and in Ecuador are fairly obvious. In both cases, a fragile ecosystem was catastrophically impacted, which in turn had a drastic impact on the lives and livelihoods of local community members — many of whom are Indigenous peoples who have lived off of those particular ecosystems for generations.

Crude oil contaminates an open toxic pool in the the Ecuadorean Amazon rainforest near Lago Agrio. It was abandoned by Texaco (now Chevron) after oil drilling operations ended in 1990 and was never remediated. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network

In Ecuador, as the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre explains: “The oil contamination of soil and water sources used by residents for agriculture, fishing, bathing and drinking has allegedly caused a sharp increase in serious illnesses among local people in parts of Sucumbios state in Ecuador. It has also allegedly displaced residents and left many people without their traditional sources of income.” There are many great resources if you’re looking for more information on how local communities have been affected, including impacts on their health and livelihood and cultural way of life.

The biggest difference between the two cases of extreme oil pollution, of course, is that the Gulf oil spill was more or less an accident (say what you will about BP’s culpability given its lax attitude toward worker and environmental safety), whereas the billions of gallons of oil and toxic water still sitting in open, unlined pits in the rainforests of Ecuador were dumped there intentionally. BP has set up a $20 billion fund to compensate those affected by its oil spill. Chevron, on the other hand, refuses to take responsibility.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s portal is a great resource if you’re looking for more background on the case against Chevron. If you want to help call on Chevron to clean up its mess in Ecuador, you could do worse than retweet this blog post to make sure as many people see it as possible.