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11 Dec 2020

Agence France Presse

Ecuador: Indigenous Waorani file lawsuit against Chinese oil company PetroOriental, claiming gas flaring is contaminating their ancestral lands & threatening their survival

'Amazon community files lawsuit against Chinese firm over gas flaring', 11 December 2020

Indigenous Waorani from Ecuador’s Amazon filed a lawsuit on Thursday against state-owned Chinese oil company PetroOriental, accusing it of contaminating their ancestral lands by burning off natural gas from oil wells in a process known as flaring.

... “We have seen our way of life altered forever,” the community stated in the complaint. “Our very survival is threatened as a result of climate change.”

The local people are objecting to the widespread practice of flaring, where oil producers – in this case PetroOriental – deliberately burn off millions of cubic meters of natural gas produced from oil wells.

Environmentalists say the province of Orellana has a high concentration of oil burners, and the Waorani say the smoke produced is contaminating their land and water sources.

... “The rainfall tastes like coal. We still use it because we don’t have drinking water,” said Menare Omene, a 52-year-old Waorani woman, whose community of about 150 people presented the complaint.

... An environmental NGO supporting the Waorani’s case, Accion Ecologica, said that if the flares are extinguished, the gas could be used to generate electricity. That would demand heavy investment in the face of the cheaper option of burning it, it said.

“We want them to turn off the burners because of the environmental damage to our land. It’s full contamination,” said the Miwaguno village leader Juan Pablo Enomenga.

... He said that for the past 15 years, local production of yucca and plantain, the basis of his community’s diet, has gradually declined, blaming environmental pollution.

“What we sow on the farm does not even yield 50 per cent” compared to previously, he said.