Impacts Caused By Oil Drilling in Ecuador

Ecuador is a small country about the size of the state of Nevada that lies in western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia to the north and Peru to the east and south. The four main regions of Ecuador is the coast along the Pacific Ocean, the Andean region, the Amazon basin, and the Galapagos Islands. Two ranges of the Andes Mountains are topped by tall volcanic peaks.

Ecuador is prone to natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. Ecuador has a rich and varied biodiversity and is one of the most diverse countries. Ecuador has 1500 kilometers of waterways that are mostly inaccessible. Most of the rivers in Ecuador flow east towards the Amazon River or west towards the Pacific Ocean. Major rivers are Pastaza River, Napo River, and Putumayo River.

The population of Ecuador that was estimated for July 2014 is 15,654,411 people. The population growth rate is 1.37%. The birth rate is 18.87 births to every 1,000 population. The death rate is 5.04 deaths to every 1,000 population. The life expectancy at birth is 76.36 years, for males the life expectancy rate is 73.4 years and for female 79.46 years. The migration rate is -.13 migrant(s) to every 1,000 population. The immigration rate is 2.3%. The population density is 54 people per square kilometer. The median age is 26.3 years old. Male to female ratio is 0.99 males to every female; 7,676,195 males and 7,763, 234 females.

Ecuador is run by a republic government. President Rafael Correa Delgado and Vice President Jorge Glas Espinel were both elected by popular vote on February 17, 2013. As stated in the Factbook published by the Central Intelligence Agency, the executive branch consist of “The president and the vice president [that] are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a four year term and can be re-elected for another consecutive term, the next election will be held in 2017.”

The cabinet is appointed by the president and the president is both the chief of state and the head of government. The Judicial branch consists of twenty one judges who are elected every nine years with non-renewable terms. The legislative branch consists of 137 members elected through party-list proportional representation system who serves for four years.

The capital of the Republic of Ecuador is Quito. The largest city is Guayaquil consisting of 2.279 million people. There are twenty four provinces in Ecuador.

Ecuador exports to the United States, Chile, Peru, Japan, Russia, and Colombia. The exports are petroleum, bananas, cut flowers, shrimp, cacao, coffee, wood, and fish. Import partners are the United States, China, Columbia, and Peru. The commodities that are imported are industrial materials, fuels and lubricants, and nondurable consumer goods. Many crops of Ecuador are cacao, rice, faba bean, barely, bush bean, avocado, coffee, maize, banana, plantain, African palm, sugar cane, soy bean, roses, tea, maracuya, and mango. The most economically important crop is the banana.

In 2001, the United States dollar became Ecuador’s currency. The industries consists of petroleum, food processing, textiles, wood products, and chemicals. Twenty seven percent of the labor force is agriculture, seventeen percent is industry and fifty four percent is through services. Twenty seven percent of Ecuadorians population fall below poverty line. The average income in Ecuador is $4,500 United States dollars. Typical jobs in Ecuador are farming, mining, language teachers and translators. Most companies in Ecuador hire foreign businessmen because of better education and work experience.

The Ecuadorian culture is not just one culture, it is made up of several cultures that are intertwined. Ninety five percent of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholic. Indian tribes took Catholic beliefs and mixed them with their indigenous beliefs creating their own religion which can be called Folk Catholicism. The most spoken language in Ecuador is Spanish.

Quichua is an Incan language spoken by the Indian population. 3,352,000 Ecuadorians use the internet, which is five percent below global average. Foods that are served in Ecuador are Lemon marinated shrimp, toasted corn on the cob, pastries filled with different types of ingredients, roasted cuy (guinea pig), and yaguarlocro (potato soup made with blood). Panama hats are crafted in Ecuador, the name where the hats can be purchased (Panama) bear the name, rather than where the hats are made. Weaving, woodcarvings, and bread figures are traditional Ecuadorian arts.

Men around the Quito area of Ecuador wear blue poncho, a fedora, or a felt hat with white calf-length knickers. Many men have a long braid that hangs down to about the waist called a Shimba, a traditional piece of clothing and a symbol of indigenous ethnic identity. Octavalo women commonly wear a white blouse, a blue shirt, a shawl, layers of necklaces with gold beads, and red coral bracelets. In coastal region, men wear loose fitting shirts and women wear light dresses. Same-sex couples is legal in Ecuador but the same legal protections are not available to same-sex marriages as for opposite-sex- married couples.

Ecuador is biodiversity land filled with many species of plants, insects, and amphibians. That was before Texaco, now part of Chevron discovered oil in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. During the 1960’s through the 1990’s Texaco drilled oil in Ecuador with little environmental laws that existed or were enforced. Texaco dug out three hundred and fifty oil wells and left one thousand unlined waste pits filled with crude and toxic waste.

Many of these pits leaked into the water table or overflowed in heavy rains, polluting river and streams. Waterways that Ecuadorians as well as other countries depend on for drinking, cooking, bathing, and fishing. Many of the ways that Texaco was handing the toxic waste in Ecuador were illegal in its home country, the United States. The excavation of oil is much to blame for environmental damage, cultural identities lost, and health effects of local Ecuadorians.

The oil that was drilled in Ecuador was located deep in the Amazon basin. In order to pump the oil out, new roads had to be developed from the Andes into the Amazon. With that brought deforestation which also brought the problem of landslides and habitat destruction.

Trees hold the soil together and allow animals to live among them. With no trees, landslides are prone and animals die or are forced to move to other areas which may be problematic to animals that need large areas to survive. The new roads also encourage poaching of exotic animals. Animals that are being killed and dying because of lack of habitat also effect the food chain, where which then effects the whole ecosystem of the Amazon basin.

According to an article written by Shahab Ahmad, animal population has decreased by thirty percent since 1970 because of oil drilling. Ecuador has lost about twenty two percent of its forest cover because of oil extracting. The oil that was removed by Texaco caused four hundred million tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. The abundant amount of carbon dioxide in the air has caused global warming and climate change.

Indigenous tribes who have lived off the Amazon basin for centuries have found themselves in poverty. Amazon Watch writes that the tribes that were once able to live off the rivers and forests are no longer able to because oil contamination has caused fish and wildlife to die or move to other waters or lands.

The indigenous tribes have no communication to the rest of the world and use the land resources to live. The indigenous tribes suffer from severe health problems too, such as cancer, birth defects, and other ailments related to toxic exposure. Besides poverty and health problems, indigenous tribes have also lost ancient traditions and wisdom due to cultural impoverishments because of the oil industry.

Texaco drilled next to the land where tribes called home for centuries and furthermore forced them to leave. The oil company’s workers were disrespectful to the native tribes, often times making fun of their customs and ways of dress. Workers also introduced alcohol to the tribes who were no ready for such a poisonous drink, and one of the tribe members died from overdrinking. The building of the new roads has encouraged new settlers to relocate to the Amazon and conflicts to occur between the new settlers and indigenous tribes.

Some tribes were also forced to leave their home land in the Amazon basin because of the oil drilling and move towards more civilized areas. The move and conflicts with the settlers killed members of the tribes because of diseases the tribes were not immune to. An example of a loss of culture is the two tribes, the Tetetes and the Samsahuari who inhabited the Amazon region and were un-contacted from the rest of the world. When Texaco arrived, these two tribes were forced to move, and the tribes disappeared. Cultures that had existed for centuries began to die because of traditional ways of life.

The oil company, Texaco, now owned by Chevron, dumped eighteen billion gallons of toxic waste water into rivers and streams according to the article written by the website monabay. The contamination of the water into the rivers and streams that tens of thousands of people use for drinking, cooking, bathing, and fishing has led to thousands of health concerns.

Where oil contaminations have occurred, there have been a rise in cancers of the mouth, stomach, and uterine cancers. There are also higher rates of children with leukemia, and mothers who were exposed to the contamination have had miscarriages or birth defects. Besides permanent health problems, people exposed to the water contamination have frequent illness, report skin rashes, and diarrhea.

Areas that were once used for agriculture, were leased by Texaco for oil drilling. After Texaco was finished drilling all that remained of the land were waste pits. This land is now unable to be used for agriculture. This then led to the farmers who once used the land to have no job and suffer from health problems because of the oil industry. The oil drilling has not only contributed to loss of cultural identities, health concerns, and environmental degrading but also contributing to the decline of Ecuador’s economy.

Chevron, parent company to Texaco, has failed to clean up the oil disaster in Ecuador. Oil contamination is still a daily defeat to the people of Ecuador. What occurred in Ecuador should be a lesson to the whole entire world thatillegally dumping toxic waste can cause serious complications to the environment, culture of a country, and to the economy.

Work Cited

Ahmad, Shahab. “How the World Forced Ecuador to Destroy Its Own Environment.”_PolicyMic_.

Policy Mic, 17 Aug. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

“Chevron’s Chernobyl in the Amazon.” _Amazon Watch_. Amazon Watch, n.d. Web. 26 Mar.2014.

“Ecuador: Environmental Profile.” _Ecuador: Environmental Profile_. Mongabay, n.d. Web. 26

Mar. 2014.

“Ecuador.” _Facts_. Find The Data, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. .

“The World Factbook: Ecuador.” _Central Intelligence Agency_. Central Intelligence Agency, 11

Mar. 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. .