Ecuador: Schoolgirls sue government over pollution caused by refinery combustion and win

Nine girls, aged 7-14, made history in Ecuador after suing the government over pollution and the climate effects of the burning of refineries in the Amazon. The court ruled in favor of the girls, who demanded the immediate cessation of all gas burning in their villages. The judges also stressed that the cessation of combustion could even reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 24%.

“I am just happy because justice has been done. We will give life back to nature, to all the sick children, to the people, to the parents who struggled to stay healthy, to the families who also struggled to grow their small crops, to the families living under these polluting gases and for those who had to leave their land “, said 10-year-old Leonela Moncayo after being informed about the court decision.

Photo: Mitch Anderson / Amazon Frontlines

At an average temperature of 400 degrees Celsius, refineries burn natural gas, a by-product of oil extraction, since 1967 when Chevron-Texaco began operations in the area. The plaintiffs reported that relatives and friends had many health problems, such as cancer, due to air pollution caused by the burns, and in some cases deaths were reported.

A 2017 survey by Clínica Ambiental, a program of the Center for Research and Social Action (CEAS) and the NGO Acción Ecológica, suggests that there are more cases of cancer in the Ecuadorian Amazon population living near Chevron-operated areas -Texaco, that is, where the refineries, the mines and the gas emissions are located.

Pablo Fajardo, one of the lawyers representing the girls and the Texaco-influenced Association of People (UDAPT), says researchers and the association spent two years collecting reports and cases of cancer in Sucumbíos and Orellana. They report 251 cases, of which 71% concern women. “These girls who were plaintiffs today could be cancer victims tomorrow,” Fajardo said.

On February 20, 2020, the girls filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment and Water, claiming that the effects of the fires violated their rights to access water, health, food and in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. They said the burns had negatively affected the health of the residents, contaminating the rainwater which was their only source of clean water.

Photo: Mitch Anderson / Amazon Frontlines

However, the precautionary measures were not accepted and so the girls filed an appeal which was postponed 5 times. Finally, on January 26, 2021, the court agreed with the girls ‘lawsuit, stating that “the Ecuadorian government disregarded the plaintiffs’ right to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment, disregarding their right to health through polluting activities.” , by not providing or promoting the use of environmentally friendly non-polluting energy technologies “.

Another lawyer for the girls, Maria Espinosa, states that “what we want is to close the 447 burning points. To get rid of them we need new alternatives, which were examined in the indictment. “The gases could be channeled for domestic use, to re-produce energy in refineries and other possible solutions.” The next step is to consider exactly how the residents will be compensated.


Source: Εναλλακτική Δράση by

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