Ecuador Forced to Abandon Innovative Plan to Save Yasuni National Park

In 2007, when large oil deposits were discovered in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) field, northeast of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador, President Rafael Correa presented an ambitious and innovative plan to the UN to preserve the land and keep the oil in the ground. He asked the international community to help Ecuador raise money to offset the lost oil revenues. There was widespread international support for the plan, and the money started to roll in.

Last Thursday, Correa announced that Ecuador would be forced to bail on the plan—a very sad day for Ecuador and the world. Citing the world’s inability to raise enough money to support the project and Ecuador’s international debts, Correa said: “With deep sadness but also with absolute responsibility to our people and history, I have had to take one of the hardest decisions of my government.”

Yasuni National Park is often considered the most biologically diverse place on the planet. It is home to 2,274 species of trees and shrubs, 655 of which can be found in a single hectare of land—more than the total number of tree species in all of North America. It’s also home to 593 species of birds, 80 species of bats, 150 species of amphibians, and 120 species of reptiles.

The Park is also known for its indigenous population. The Quichua, Waorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane people all reside within the park’s boundaries.

President Correa’s announcement drew the ire of hundreds of protestors, who assembled outside the presidential palace in Quito. A recent survey indicates that 90% of the population opposes drilling for oil in the ITT oil fields.

According to The Guardian, preparations for drilling will begin almost immediately: “Oil companies have been quietly preparing for the abandonment of the initiative. PetroEcuador has pushed ahead with development of extraction block 31, which sits on the edge of the ITT. Roads are also under construction close to the ITT project in an area that is famous for Jaguar sightings.”

Earth Day Network is particularly disappointed to learn about the plan to drill near Yasuni. We have been staunch advocates for the preservation of this sacred land in Ecuador, and were chosen by the UN Development Program as the official American non-profit partner in the effort to save Yasuni National Park.