cloudforests of western Ecuador are considered to be among the most endangered
forest types on the planet and considered the most floristically diverse
in the world. They are also the focus of the country's environmental battles
at the moment. Unfortunately, the battle that is raging over the development
of a new pipeline, the OCP (Oleoducto Crudos Pesados or Heavy Crude Pipeline)
through the cloudforest reserves of the Mindo region, is likely a diversion
to detract from the anticipated impacts that increased production capacity
will cause in the Amazon. While the proposed route and inevitable oil spills
will certainly negatively impact the fragile and rare remnant primary cloudforest
ecosystems at the high elevations, in effect it will result in a quadrupling
of development in the headwaters of the Amazon. (Please see http://www.amazonwatch.org
for more specific information on the OCP pipeline situation.)
In early June of 2001, an agreement was signed to construct this second
pipeline (the OCP) and cut a new route over the Andes. Between the
Amazon and the coast, this new pipeline is proposed to follow a new,
more direct path and will cut through the last large areas of intact
western-slope cloudforest. Like the redwoods of the Pacific Northwest
Ecuador's Pacific-slope cloudforests are the southernmost extension
of the Central American tropical jungles and are a unique world treasure.
contain an extremely high degree of species endemism and are known
harbor the most species of orchids found on Earth. World-famous botanist
Gentry has called them the most biodiverse forests on Earth
and they are prioritized by the international environmental movement
as one of the hottest of hotspots on the planet for conservation.
They have suffered severe fragmentation in the past, and being at the
of this forest range are extremely important habitat for orchid endemics.
This new pipeline, though it could follow the existing alignment, has
wantonly planned to cut through the most intact remaining core primary
forest areas. Large-scale campaigning has been ongoing in Ecuador and
to stop this ill-conceived project.
In an effort to intercede in this inevitable development, the Pañacocha
project was initiated as a largely grassroots effort to implement an
model and an attempt to rein in this escalating energy development
activity and to reintroduce conservation policy to an area that has
by most of the large environmental actors.
The rate at which this development is intruding on the upper Amazon
is alarming, and the need to fund and conduct an environmental assessment
is very current if not compulsory by international law. Therefore,
as the principal beneficiaries of exploration of petroleum and the
of the recent dollarization, militarization, and environmentally
self-regulated petroleum development, there is a need for U.S.
foreign aid (as well
independent private resources) to cover costs. These include environmental
protection, the evaluation of impacts and alternatives, and planning
facilitate a regional process to minimize the impacts to biological