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Before the arrival of the oil industry, the northern Amazon of Ecuador was inhabited especially by indigenous communities, who lived in harmony with their territory and nature, according to their traditional lifestyles. The inhabitants used the natural resources that the jungle offers to satisfy their needs such as drinking water from the rivers, hunting and collecting medicinal plants.
Between 1964 and 1990 Texaco (acquired by Chevron in 2001) operated an oil concession of approximately 500,000 hectares between the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana. Other companies formed part of the consortium to which the Ecuadorian State granted the concession, however, for the entire duration of the exploitation activity, Texaco was in charge and responsible for implementing all the technical and operational part for the extraction of hydrocarbons. In order to save money, the company deliberately decided to use obsolete and inadequate technologies, many of which were already banned in the U.S. due to their high environmental impact.
During its operations, the company drilled 356 wells and built more than twenty production stations, discharging the production water - a toxic waste from the extractive process - into more than 880 "pools", i.e. pits dug in the ground without any type of insulating protection to prevent the penetration of toxics into the ground. Many of them had their goosenecks directly oriented towards nearby rivers and estuaries, which caused direct contamination not only of the soil, but also of the water and the entire river system of the area. In addition, Texaco directly dumped crude oil on more than 1,700 km of roads to prevent dust from rising when their trucks were circulating, and built more than 380 "mecheros" (flares) for burning the extraction gas, thus also contaminating the air in the area.
The result of 26 years of extractive malpractice was one of the worst environmental catastrophes in human history, which caused and continues to cause devastating effects on the lives, health, culture and environment of the more than 30,000 people living in the area. More than 80,000 analyses reflect the existence of toxic products in the soil and water, which were systematically contaminated. It is estimated that, throughout its extractive activity, Texaco dumped about 64 billion liters of toxic water and 650,000 barrels of crude oil into the Amazon ecosystem.
The impacts related to Texaco's oil exploitation have affected all the indigenous and settlers communities in the area, who suffer serious health problems due to pollution, including many catastrophic diseases. The cancer rate in the contaminated area reaches up to 8-10 times the national average.
Other impacts related to Texaco's operations include territorial fragmentation, military presence, loss of community cohesion and ancestral territories, displacement, psychological and physical abuse, loss of culture, increased poverty due to the loss of animals and damage to agriculture.
billion liters of toxic water
hectares of contaminated area
"Texacontamination" - Documentary on the contamination left by Chevron-Texaco. Pocho Alvarez, 2011