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Oil Pollution in the Amazon

In 1993, thirty thousand Amerindians and farmers launched into a titanic judicial battle against Chevron Texaco, the second largest producer of energy in the world.  When Texaco pulled out of its operations in Ecuador in 1992, after 21 years of oil production in the Amazon, the American company left behind an environmental catastrophe that has, according to scientists, no equivalent save for that of Chernobyl.

At the highest peak of its activity, Texaco dumped more that 16 million liters of water tainted with arsenic, lead, mercury and benzene into the rivers.  Repeated breakages in the pipeline that the company built in order to transport its product have lead to oil spills that are twice as damaging as the Exxon Valdez disaster. One million hectares of virgin forest were destroyed to build 500 kilometers of dirt roads, the dust on which was controlled with the liberal use of brut oil. Texaco also left behind more than 800 pits of oil residue that continue to infiltrate the water table and pollute rivers and streams crucial to thousands of local residents. The risk of death by cancer is up to thirty times higher here than elsewhere and the number of those that have passed away from what are believed to be pollution related illnesses are already in the hundreds.

The people of the Sucumbios region in Ecuador, who call themselves Los Afectados or the “Affected Ones”, are determined to fight for as long as it takes. Lead by their lawyer, Pablo Fajardo, a man who also comes from extreme poverty, the plaintiffs ask more than 6 billion Dollars in compensation for the damages. It is one of the largest suits ever of its kind.