Ecuadorans Vote to Halt Amazon Oil Drilling Project in Landmark Referendum

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In a momentous display of climate democracy, Ecuadorans have cast their votes to put an end to an oil drilling endeavor within the Yasuni National Park, an Amazon reserve renowned for its incredible biodiversity. The outcome of the referendum, revealed on Monday, revealed that 59 percent of participants voted in favor of ceasing the exploitation of an oil block situated in the Yasuni region, with 98 percent of votes counted.

Celebrating this historic decision, the country’s prominent indigenous organizations, Confeniae and Conaie, shared their excitement on social media, recognizing the significant move towards safeguarding life, biodiversity, and the rights of indigenous communities.

After years of advocacy for a referendum, the nation’s highest court granted authorization in May for a vote to determine the fate of “block 43,” responsible for contributing 12 percent of Ecuador’s daily oil production of 466,000 barrels.

This oil block is located within a sprawling reserve spanning over a million hectares, housing three of the world’s last uncontacted indigenous populations and a multitude of plant and animal species.

The drilling activity began in 2016 after extensive debates and unsuccessful attempts by the former president Rafael Correa to secure $3.6 billion from the international community to prevent drilling in the area due to financial constraints faced by Ecuador.

The current government, under outgoing President Guillermo Lasso, projects a potential loss of $16 billion over the next two decades if the drilling activities are halted.

The Yasuni region is inhabited by the Waorani and Kichwa tribes, alongside the Tagaeri, Taromenane, and Dugakaeri groups, who have chosen to remain isolated from the modern world.

Ecuador’s decision carries significant global environmental implications, as the Amazon basin, spanning eight nations, serves as a critical carbon sink. The destruction of this region could trigger a catastrophic tipping point, where trees release carbon rather than absorb it, endangering the climate.

International figures such as Hollywood actor and environmental advocate Leonardo DiCaprio and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg have applauded Ecuador’s decision. DiCaprio labeled the referendum as a pioneering example of climate politics democratization, allowing voters to champion the forest, indigenous rights, the climate, and the planet’s well-being.

The referendum outcome is seen as a triumph for climate democracy, where individuals hold the power to influence resource extraction and set its limits, instead of corporations. While local sentiments in Yasuni vary, this vote reflects Ecuador’s firm stride towards preserving its natural treasures and prioritizing environmental and indigenous rights over short-term economic benefits.

SOURCE: Ref Image from RFI

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