The price of the black gold
The oil business has mostly been a dirty business for the Ecuadorian population from the beginning. The toxic disposals of the American oil company Texaco are a sad example of the calculated environmental MCA.
In the sixties, Texaco made a contract with the Ecuadorian Government on the exploration of the oil resources in the northern Amazon areas.
The American company built the first oil rigs and the
SOTE-Pipeline from Lago Agrio to Esmeraldas on the pacific coast. Since Ecuador had no previous experience in the oil business, the government relied on the knowledge of Texaco in the creation of the infrastructure. It was believed that the oil company would employ the same technical standards like in the USA and other countries.
The company, however, decided to reach a maximal capacity of production with a minimal investment.
In order to not pollute the environment in the USA and other countries side products of oil production like toxic waste, polluted salt water and oil rests, are being pumped thousands of meters into the ground.
Texaco did not employ such measures in Ecuador and pumped the highly toxic salt waters for decades into the fragile eco system.
Due to this, in expert opinion the company was able to save around three dollars per barrel of crude oil. In total, the company was thus able to save five billions dollar in its 26 years long activity.
Oil rests and other waste are kept in large, open ponds.
Until today 339 of these final stores exist in Oriente. The ponds contain the most cancer inducing substances known to man: Benzoles and Tylenes. To this day the toxic waste flood the unfortified shores and flow into the sourrounding region.
Additionally, large quantities of gases and oil rests were burned. Consequently there was acid rain in the region, notorious in Oriente as "black rain".
The price for the ecologically unaccountable proceedings of Texaco is paid by the population of the then production region.
Ten years after the Texaco-era the rivers, especially Rio Napo, watercourses and swamps of the region are polluted. Indigenous communities and colonists are suffering health problems and economically under the consequences of the pollution.
Dramatically risen cancer rates, altered plant growth, diminished fish population, decaying breeding animals and polluted drinking water have made survival of man difficult.
Altogether 30.000 people are affected. Especially the three indigenous tribes of the Cofan, Secoya and Siona, that live in peace with nature for thousands of years have been brought near extinction within three decades of oil production. In 1970, some 15000 Cofan lived in Oriente. Today it's a few hundred.
Since 1993 several Ecuadorian organisations are suing Texaco, that now is under the name of Chevron-Texaco.
Texaco is supposed to clean the remaining 339 toxic ponds, to pump the toxic content into the ground, pay compensation to the population and finance projects of sustained development.
Experts estimate the cost for Texaco to be around one billion US-Dollars.
The American company doesn't want to pay. It does not deny the pollution by the toxic waste, but claims that after the then Ecuadorian law the industrial standards had been fulfilled. The evidence against the oil giant is huge, though.
In a desperate attempt to get around the plaintiff Texaco made a "cleaning contract" with the allegedly corrupt government of Ecuador in 1995.
The toxic ponds were to be covered with soil. The company partook with 30 Million Dollars in the project. 140 of the total of 541 ponds were periodically closed in this manner. The rain flooded the toxic contents to the surface after a short time, though.
In the Amazon basin various people have fallen victim to the population. Indigenous communities have other claims than the colonists that arrived in the time of the oil boom. Therefore, there are several interest groups that all sue against Texaco. This variety is not always helpful to the aim.
In addition, there are disputes over the responsibility. The complainants wanted to discuss the case in an US-American court.
For a variety of reasons: Ecuadorian right knows no collective plaintiffs, Texaco was not subject to the Ecuadorian laws and Texpet, the affiliated company that worked for Texaco in Ecuador has not enough funds to pay in case of a guilt verdict.
I In August 2002 the case was finally rejected in the USA because of want of responsibility. Now the process will be fought on Ecuadorian ground.
Savings of five billions of Dollars in comparison with a plaintiff of a volume of one billion of Dollars: even in the case of a guilt verdict, Chevron-Texaco would come out as winner of the dirty oil business.
Reality-Tour: In the footsteps of oil companies
to the pictures from the region of Lago Agrio