Last Sunday (February 4, 2018) Ecuadorians voted in favor of increasing the intangible zone of the Yasuní National Park in at least 50,000 hectares, and also in limiting oil extraction in this area.
A government commission will be in charge of defining how the popular mandate will be fulfilled. The task will be in charge of three State portfolios: Environment, Justice and Hydrocarbons. The term to define the space of the new area will be six months, informed the holder of Hydrocarbons, Carlos Pérez.
The official explained that the commission will present the recommendations to President Lenin Moreno, who will finally issue his decision through an Executive Decree. Although Hydrocarbons initially presented a proposal for the areas where the intangible zone could be expanded, Perez said this week that the tripartite commission will determine the best place to locate these areas to avoid any type of problems with communities, especially those not contacted. ”
The commission will define the new limits of the intangible zone, which is a protected space due to its cultural and biological importance, and where the extraction of natural resources is prohibited unless authorized by the National Assembly for reasons of national interest.
The decision to start oil exploitation in the ITT block (Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini), located in the heart of the Yasuní National Park -considered the most biodiverse site in the world-, was taken by the previous Government, after the initiative to collect economic resources in exchange for leaving the crude underground will not prosper.
This generated controversy, because near this area there is evidence of the presence of people in voluntary isolation. Because of this, the Yasunidos Collective initiated a process to call a popular consultation, which did not materialize.
After the declaration of national interest of the operation of blocks 31 and 43 ITT, the operation in the ITT began in late 2016, but only this year it began drilling in Tambococha, which is within the National Park. The area intervened in Yasuní amounts to 37 ha and the total area allowed for exploitation is 335 ha.
According to what was approved in the consultation on Sunday, the Government will have to reduce the area of oil exploitation in Yasuní from 1 030 to 300 ha. The Ministry of Hydrocarbons considers that this decision will not have an impact on the development plan of the ITT. “The idea is to keep alone in 300 ha within the Park.” Although the decision limits in some way the expansion of the oil frontier in this area, Perez said that the current plans will allow an increase in oil production to 700,000 barrels per day until 2020.
To start the increase in oil production, Ecuador will wait for resolutions on production quotas of OPEC, a group of which it is a member, which will be held in June.
However, last days the Government announced that it will gradually increase its oil production from this month until reaching 540,000 barrels per day in December. Between January 1 and 22, the national production was 513,475 barrels per day, according to data from the National Information Service. This company plans to raise its production from this month to reach an average of 450,000 barrels per day of oil until the end of this year, explained a few days ago its general manager, Alex Galárraga. Perez stressed that the state company Petroamazonas has a very strict protocol to handle possible sightings of uncontacted people.
The Yasunidos collective considers that the Government’s proposal to determine the expansion of the intangible zone of the Yasuní, through three State portfolios, does not represent the will of the people. For Patricio Chávez, spokesperson for the group, the decision must be analyzed through a mixed commission that convened representatives of civil society, academics, professionals, international observers, among others. “You cannot determine the new area with a good eye,” he said.
Among the factors considered by the group that must be taken into account to determine the expansion are the presence of populated places with crops, the occupation of territory by uncontacted populations and the sites of confrontation such as the Armadillo field, which according to Chávez , it should be included as a priority within the intangible zone. The Yasunidos group will present again in the coming days an order to the Government to insist on the formation of a citizen work group. According to the Minister of Hydrocarbons, the participation of other representatives in the government commission is not planned at this time. (I)