Dear Tena Diary followers,
My name is Emily Howland and I will be blogging from Tena on Ivanhoe’s activity here in the Napo Province of
Ecuador. I am a volunteer for Amazon Watch, a U.S.-based non-profit that works
to protect the rainforest and further the rights of indigenous communities of
the Amazon. You can learn more about our work at http://www.amazonwatch.org/about_us.
Since arriving in Tena I have attended a community government meeting and a workshop to teach indigenous
political leaders about the constitution’s environmental laws in Ecuador. Ecuador
is the only country in the world whose constitution give rights to nature. I’ve
talked to locals and tried to sort through the rumors flying around town about
Tena is a beautiful Amazonian town known for its ecotourism, organic cacao growing and the Kichwa language and
culture. Illegal oil and gold mining projects have sprouted up like weeds along
the riverbanks. The government is supposedly handing out mining permits without
respecting the laws of the UNESCO Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, which protects the
rainforest in the provinces of Napo, Orellana and Sucumbíos province.
Communities have been divided between those who support the companies and those
who want to conserve the land. Those who are on the conservation side are
deeply concerned about Ivanhoe’s potential to completely alter the way of life
here. “Not yet” is always the response when I ask someone if there is visible
contamination in the river. “Not yet.”
My “Tena Diaries” will document developments in the Ivanhoe case as we try to
uncover the facts about the Pungarayacu project in Ecuador regarding these
issues and others:
· Is Ivanhoe complying with its Environmental Impact Study?
· Are they socializing the project to work with
the surrounding communities and compensating these communities for occupying
· Does the company have the capital to complete the project?
Finding the answers involves talking to many people on different parts of the food
chain—NGOs in the region, civil authorities in communities, government
officials, business owners, and townspeople. Many times I get conflicting
responses to questions like “When is Ivanhoe building its second well?” or “How
many wells is Ivanhoe planning to build in the three-year testing phase?”
Perhaps confusion and lack of transparency is part of Ivanhoe’s tactic to avoid
resistance to their project.
The purpose of this blog is to give names to the “Faces of Ivanhoe”— the people, places and things that live and
breathe the Pungarayacu project. Some may be adamantly against the Ivanhoe
project and others might work for Ivanhoe. And in some cases you never know
what side they’re on. I’ll share my interactions, interviews, research and
impressions to report the very latest activity from Tena.
My hope is that “Tena Diaries” followers will be a force of informed people who can help get the word out. We
are all at risk here. Climate change is showing us that we simply won’t survive
if we continue to destroy our natural resources. Yet somehow corporate Goliaths
like Ivanhoe still see the rainforest as a disposable resource.
Ecuador holds a special place in my heart—my semester abroad in Quito during my junior year of college changed my
life. That semester taught me the immense value of speaking a second language
to connect to people and places far removed from my home in San Francisco, CA.
Last May I received a B.A. in English Literature and Hispanic Studies from
Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. I returned to Quito in October and joined
Amazon Watch in Tena in January.
I look forward to getting your feedback on my blogs and using the “Tena Diaries” forum as a resource for my
work. Please visit the Amazon Watch website to see how you can contribute to
conserving the Amazon rainforest!
Thanks for your interest and concern,