The existence of a secret road into Yasuni rainforests, leading directly to an oil production platform, has been confirmed by high resolution satellite images by National Geographic and others. Plans previously approved by Ecuador's Environment Ministry in the project's environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) provided for a "cutting-edge, roadless helicopter-enabled design" and expressly forbid road construction. Only narrow "ecological trails" 10 metres wide or less were meant to be built in the Park. But these conditions have clearly been breached - images show a 26 metre wide road and flowline corridor for a prospective pipeline, the two cutting a swathe through the rainforest up to 60 metres wide at one point. The initial, "roadless" design was approved by the government in 2007 when the operating company for Block 31 was Brazilian state oil and gas firm Petrobras.
Scientists regard the Yasuní rainforest as one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, with an extraordinary abundance of birds, primates, reptiles, and amphibians. The park contains more tree and insect species in a single hectare (2.47 acres) than in all the U.S. and Canada combined. Yasuní also harbors two groups of highly vulnerable, uncontacted indigenous people who wander the forests as hunter-gatherers in near-total isolation from the outside world. UNESCO designated Yasuní a World Biosphere Reserve in 1989.
In 2007, the Ecuadorian government announced it would forgo drilling in ITT if the international community compensated it with $3.6 billion, or half the expected revenue from the oil drilling. Known as the Yasuni ITT-Initiative, it was billed as a way to mitigate climate change by leaving 846 million barrels of oil in the ground, preserve species, and safeguard indigenous groups who had chosen voluntary isolation. But last year the government killed the initiative after the international community pledged $330 million or less than 10 percent of the total. Support for full protection of the Yasuni remains high in Ecuador, as activists across Ecuador recently gathered 850,000 signatures to kick off a national referendum on whether-or-not to drill in ITT. However last month, the National Electoral Council tossed out over 60 percent of the signatures claiming most were either repeats or fakes. Two weeks later, the government approved the drilling license for Petroamazonas to drill in the even more controversial ITT Block, which covers about 100,000 hectares or 10 percent of the park.
Roads are "leading drivers" of tropical deforestation and threaten the integrity of territories of uncontacted indigenous people living in isolation. Without improved oversight, Petroamazonas will likely continue building new access roads deeper into the core of the Yasuni National Park in both Blocks 31 and 43 (ITT). EcoInternet (then Ecological Internet) was the first organization to campaign internationally on oil and roads in the Yasuni, and we played major roles in stopping roads in the Park in the mid-2000s, and first conceiving and promoting the Yasuni-ITT initiative. EcoInternet calls upon you again to protest to keep this massive ecosystem – which disproportionately powers the biosphere – fully ecologically intact and roadless.
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