The Purpose of this Group ...
... is to provide insight into some developments going on in the Tena region of Ecuador. In the province of Napo, Tena is ESE and not too far from Quito and is the largest town near the Kallari community.
Also not far from Tena and the Kallari, Ivanhoe, a Canadian oil company, has leased rights from the Ecuadorian government to prospect for oil. The form of oil that is found in the area (called heavy oil, in oil sands) does not lend itself to conventional drilling, instead, a technique called SAGD (steam assisted gravity drainage) will be used in conjunction with Ivanhoe's proprietary HTL (heavy to light) technology which is supposed to minimize potential environmental damage. SAGD uses very large quantities of water and there are concerns about what will happen when the water is drained from local water supplies and the potential (though probably small, accidents do happen) for contamination.
The consequences of unrestrained exploitation of oil in the region have been shown to be devastating not only to Ecuador's Amazon rainforest, but to large amounts of acreage planted in cacao, and to many members of the Kallari community. One only has to visit the town of Coca - not all that far away - to see the potential for problems. While the combination of SAGD with Ivanhoe's HTL technology has the potential to be much less harmful to the environment, the manner in which the oil leases were granted and the way in which Ivanhoe representatives in Ecuador are treating the locals suggest that there are far larger plans for, and implications of, this development.
As potentially damaging as the oil recovery could be, it's not the only potential problem in the region. One of the key goals of international development and cooperation has been the creation of transcontinental shipping corridors linking Brasil, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, essentially enabling large amounts of goods to be shipped economically from the Atlantic coast of Brasil to the Pacific. Already it is possible to ship goods upriver on large container ships all the way to Iquitos, Peru. Disturbing rumors of construction plans see dredging the Napo River in Ecuador deep enough to take container barges far into Ecuador where they can be offloaded onto trucks and then transported to the coast. The road from Quito to Tena was recently improved, and a new airstrip, which looks more suitable (because of a lack of appropriate terminal facilities for civial passenger traffic) for military and commercial use has been finished in the Tena area, making it possible to (for example) airlift long sections of pipe that can't be trucked into the region. The landing strip there is long enough to support planes large enough to make shrimp and flower (e.g., roses) farming economically viable.
The creation of a transcontinental transportation corridor through the region has the potential to increase exploitive development on a vast scale which, when combined with the kind of extraction methods Ivanhoe intends to deploy in the region could alter local ecosystems beyond recognition and damage them well beyond the point of sustainability.
Working with Judy Logback of Kallari, I have found two people in the region who will be posting stories and pictures to let people know what's going on. (I am going to let them introduce themselves to the group.) At the moment, my goals in setting up the Tena Diaries group are 1) to provide a vehicle to focus international awareness and attention on the region and 2) to try to arrive at a consensus for some call to action, something ChocolateLife members can actually do, to work to protect the people of the region, the cacao, and the rainforest and the lives and livelihoods it harbors.