We're going to defend everything. Our territory. Our culture. Our water. Everything. There isn't another way for us. The outside world wants to take it all away. But we are strong!Moipa Nihua, Waorani Leader
Today, the Amazonian region of northern Ecuador continues to urbanize at an accelerating rate. Oil pipelines run alongside the roads. Gas flares light up the immense industrial complexes of the processing stations at night. Lago Agrio, the area that was once the first Texaco oil camp, now has over 100,000 inhabitants, and the land surrounding these semi-urban centers is being subdivided and developed for agriculture, cattle, and palm oil. The oil industry continues to grow, leaving a landscape pockmarked by wells, waste pits, and oil stations. Large tracts of forest are threatened both by oil development and ever expanding settlement of the region by farmers.
Yet, indigenous territories still encompass extensive tracts of intact primary wilderness in this area of the Amazon. The five indigenous nationalities of the region – the Cofan, Siona, Secoya, Kichwa and Waorani – inhabit a tenuous position between the ever advancing reach of colonization and oil production, and the protection of their ancestral territories. Their ability to continue living in these forests is threatened daily by both the economic might and allure of oil, illegal timber, and palm oil. And the very prospect of their physical and cultural survival hinges on attaining safe access to clean water, in a region where their ancestral waterways have been polluted for decades.
What can be done?
ClearWater believes that building an indigenous-led movement for clean water is the first step towards building a broader movement for health, cultural survival, and rainforest protection. In addition to the construction of rainwater catchment systems, ClearWater is working to train community technicians in water quality and environmental monitoring. We are empowering communities to administer large projects, including budget management and accountability. We are providing indigenous youth with the tools and web-based platforms to share their own photo-journalism stories about their tribes, territories and concerns. Our commitment is to lasting, holistic, community-led solutions, which can provide indigenous peoples with the strength and tools to navigate the borders of wilderness and the west on their own terms.