Ecuador Approves Oil Drilling in Amazon Rainforest

Friday, 16 Aug 2013 11:09 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Ecuador has abandoned a conservation plan that would have paid the country not to drill for oil in previously untouched parts of Yasuni National Park in the Amazon rainforest.

The nation’s left-leaning President Rafael Correa said rich countries had failed to back the initiative, leaving Ecuador with no choice but go ahead with drilling, the BBC reported Friday.

Hundreds of people gathered in Quito to protest Correa's decision to drill in new areas of the park, one of the most biodiverse locations in the world.

Oil exploitation has been taking place in some areas of the 3,860-square-mile park since the 1970s. Oil is Ecuador's main export, and exploitation of the new area is expected to start in the coming weeks.

The U.N.-backed scheme to attract donations in exchange for not drilling in the eastern area of the park was launched by Correa in 2010.

The aim was to raise $3.6 billion — 50 percent of the value of the reserves in the park's Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field — over a 13-year period.

But in a televised news conference on Thursday, Correa said the initiative had attracted only a fraction of the cash it had aimed to raise.

With only $13 million in actual donations thus far, Correa said he had no other option but to abandon the fund as "the world has failed us".

"I have signed the executive decree for the liquidation of the Yasuni-ITT trust fund and through it, [to] end the initiative," the president said in a televised address.

He said the decision was one of the most difficult he had had to take as president.

"It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change," he said.

The president added that his oil exploration plan would leave most of the park untouched, affecting less that 1 percent of its area.

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