In a historic vote, Ecuadorians will prohibit oil drilling in Yasuní National Park in the Amazon. The vote, which took place on Sunday during the first round of presidential elections, puts in place a binding referendum that permanently bans drilling in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil project, also known as oil Block 43.
The vote came as a result of a decade of environmentalists and Indigenous rights groups advocating to “save” the region, which is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, according to the National Electoral Council of Ecuador.
“This victory shows that we humans are taking action to save our planet during these times of climate crisis,” Leonidas Iza, president of Ecuador’s Indigenous Federation, said.
Classified as a biosphere reserve by the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1989, the area is home to Indigenous groups, 610 species of birds, 139 species of amphibians, and 121 species of reptiles.
“We now have the power to let go of the oil companies and give victory to land, water and life,” Nemonte Nenquimo, Indigenous leader of the Waorani people, said.
Petroecuador, the state oil company, will be required to dismantle its operations at the park’s eastern edge in the Amazon in the coming months, Causes.com reported.
“[Sunday was] a day we will remember as the day the planet started to win, and corrupt politicians and oil companies lost,” Nenquimo said.
Oil has been Ecuador’s main export, the new oil project, Block 43, contributed $1.2 billion to the federal budget annually, therefore, economists said the decision for the poverty-stricken country will cause more turmoil and struggle after.
“Those indemnifications could cost $15 billion. We need to review to see how we’ll get out, what contracts there are, how they will close,” Luisa Gonzalez, presidential hopeful, said. “It’s a complicated scenario.”