In Ecuador there are many changes going on, our government is writing a new constitution that emphasizes the importance of protecting our natural reserves in water and making it a public resource. This is something I fully agree with.
But as an Ecuadorian citizen I cannot help but being disappointed by realizing that the words written down in this new constitution, are already in plans to being violated near my home town in Manta.
My province is called Manabi by our pre-colonial ancestors. It means land without water. This is the reality in Manta and all the other cities near by, there is a big problem of water distribution and shortage. Manta is an important port that has a certain economic independence from the central government because of its dynamic fishing industry, tourism and local businesses.
Despite Manta having a very arid and desert landscape, at only 26 km away there is a special cloud forest called “Bosque de Pacoche”. This humid forest is an area of 190 Km2, which extends over hills and the dramatic coast line.
In this area inhabit over 40 thousand species of birds, mostly fruit eaters, nectar feeders and seed eaters like Toucans, Humming birds, Ocellated Ant Birds, green and gold Tanagers, Parrots and the Pacific Parrotlet. There are Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Sloths, The South America margay or “Tigrillo” and many other animals that live in this refuge of green paradise. There are also the humpback whales that come to this coast every year, between the months of June and October, to mate and give birth.
The municipality of Manta has started a society called “Mancomunidad” that over three years has developed a conservation and eco-tourism project.
All these important facts have been overlooked by our government and without consulting the local authorities or our people, it was announced in all our Medias that there is a huge project to create a Petrol Refinery in the town “El Aromo” right next to this Cloud Forest. The mega-project is supposed to be started by next year with the co-association of PDVSA, Petrol of Venezuela. According to their own terms it will be an investment of 10 billion dollars and will be a great progress to our province.
The refinery will process 300.000 tons of petrol by day; this means 52 millions liters of water will be needed to process this oil per day.
There are nine small communities in this area, El Aromo, Liguiqui, San Lorenzo, Las Pampas, Rio Canas, Las Pinas, Santa Rosa, Santa Marianita and San Mateo that live off fishing and agriculture. They have pure underground water that comes from this Cloud Forest that by a scientific study has been proved to have its source from Chimborazo volcano.
My only explanation to understand the government’s strategy to build this refinery in this area is the need of great quantities of water that this small microclimate has. This project has been so swiftly announced that people in my home town could not even get organized to protest. But still at least 2000 people between many students, professors, independent citizens and people of the Aromo and San Lorenzo came the 7th of July and walked down the streets of Manta to show their refusal of this kind of progress.
The 15th of July the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa reunited in the Aromo in a big extension of land they have already acquired for the refinery.
There were many people that camped overnight in the Aromo and protested the day of the event, while being intimidated by the police and the military presence that have already invaded the area.
It is hard to witness these events and to feel impotent face to face with our President Rafael Correa’s will and plans, knowing that the big winner is always money and political interests.
I only have a small hope, I am hoping that by this news, there might be an international interest and support to help us protect this beautiful Cloud Forest and our city from suffering the consequences of the terrible contamination a refinery brings.
For me, in a time of global warming, conserving our water resources, our fertile land, our clean sea water, our green forest that purifies our air and gives us all these important elements is vital now and for the next generations to come.
Please help us continue our movement; we are fighting against the current in a country that at times, ceases to assure us the freedom of expression and democratic principles.
visit my blog www.anniandrea.wordpress.com and you may see some videos No Refineria en el Aromo in youtube.