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A few months before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began, I was traveling around the Amazon rainforest observing the contamination that occurred there as a result of petroleum for an article with Penthouse magazine (forthcoming). One of the most highly publicized cases against the oil industry in the Amazon is in eastern Ecuador, where Texaco (now owned by Chevron) operated for decades. The case of Aguinda vs. Chevron/Texaco has been in courts for more than a decade and seems to be nearing an end. A judge in Ecuador estimated the damages caused by Texaco to be about $27 billion, making it the largest environmental lawsuit on earth (though the BP Gulf spill will likely dwarf this one), though Chevron continues to fight against that verdict.
While the case goes on in court, I was able to look at in plain view the remnants of Texaco and the ongoing oil exploitation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, most of it concentrated between the towns of Lago Agrio and Coca. Thousands of waste pits (who left them is a part of the case) filled with oil are even today, leaking into the ground where hundreds of impoverished communities and indigenous tribes get their water.
The alleged list of effects of hydrocarbon in the Ecuadorian Amazon is lengthy: serious health effects including cancer, the extinction of one indigenous group and the near extinction of several others, the use of cheap and inefficient equipment, opting for inexpensive cleanups in order to save money, and
While whose fault the contamination lies with is debated, few will argue the mark the oil industry has left on the natural environment and people of Ecuador’s Amazon. See for yourself.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.