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  • Writer's pictureFranklin Vega

Communities affected by the oil spill in the Coca River still demand attention

The traces of oil in the communities settled along the Coca River are multiple. Photos: Telmo Ibarburu

March through the streets of Francisco de Orellana, El Coca. Photo: Inredh

One year after the spill of 15,800 barrels of oil in the Napo and Coca rivers, the repair has not materialized for the residents.

On April 7, 2020, the Trans Ecuadorian Pipeline System (SOTE) and the Heavy Crude Oil Pipeline (OCP) broke. The two lines that transport oil from the Amazon to Esmeraldas was damaged on the border of the Orellana and Sucumbíos provinces.

OCP indicated in a statement that on "April 7 (2020) an erosion was detected in the channel of the Coca River that triggered the rupture of the OCP pipe this morning." The effects were for the communities settled downstream. In the city of Francisco de Orellana, El Coca, for example, the supply of drinking water was suspended. Despite the time that has elapsed, the communities still demand "full reparation" for the damage caused by the spill. For this reason, 400 Amazonian Kichwa people marched through the streets of El Coca this morning.

“After a year of the oil spill, more than 27 thousand indigenous people from 109 communities continue to experience the effects of pollution on their bodies and on their territories, and the risks associated with the regressive erosion of rivers, including possible new spills." They said in a public statement.

Detail of the banks of the Coca river impregnated with oil. Photo: Telmo Ibarburu

To demand full attention, those affected indigenous communities raised a protective action. However, the Provincial Court of Orellana denied the appeal in the protection action filed in favour of the indigenous communities affected by the oil spill on March 24.

Verónica Grefa, president of the Toyuca community emphasized that the judges of the first and second instance "did not recognize the violations of our rights, is why several affected communities are here fighting for their rights, to enforce them." In addition to this, they indicate that in some areas of the Coca River, they are literally collapsing and the protesters are asking for more information and attention.

For its part, the company OCP indicated in a press release dated July 2020 that “the work of remediation and community care is carried out jointly between OCP Ecuador and EP Petroecuador… The cleaning work is carried out on the banks of the Coca and Napo rivers in 189 remediation points identified by specialists and authorities ”.

OCP pointed out that as attention measures they have delivered 1.2 million litres of water and 18 thousand food kits in 90 communities; 3,190 tests have been carried out to detect the Covid-19 virus and 5,000 people were treated by medical brigades.

To face erosion, OCP reported on February 4, 2021, the start of the “preventive construction of a new 500-meter-long bypass (side pass) to protect the integrity of the pipeline and maintain the oil transportation service”. The company adds that "due to a landslide related to the phenomenon of regressive erosion and heavy rains in the El Reventador area, near kilometre 96 of the heavy crude oil pipeline."

This media asked for the latest version of the actions of OCP on the issue of environmental and social compensation, but until the closing of this note, we did not receive it.

The traces of oil in the communities settled along the Coca River are multiple. Photos: Telmo Ibarburu


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