How to face oil spills and their effects? Specialists from different countries share their experiences

How to face oil spills and their effects? Specialists from different countries share their experiences
February 28, 2022 Claudia Acosta

Written by: Daniel Villavicencio – Pronaturaleza

To better understand the causes and effects of oil spills in the region, specialists from different countries and fields share their experiences in the Webinar Pollution due to oil spills, organized by the Ciencia Ciudadana para la Amazonia Network, its partner Pronaturaleza and Aguas Amazónicas.

The event had the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and its objective was to make visible the causes, impacts and possible ways of mitigating or preventing the oil spills that occur in water and land ecosystems, with a special emphasis on the Amazon. Seven specialists from different countries such as Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, and fields as varied as Law, Biology, Communications and Environmental Engineering participated.

In Peru, a study on oil spills by the National Human Rights Coordinator, called “La sombra del petróleo” (“The shadow of oil”),published in 2020, indicates that 65% of the oil spills are due to pipe corrosion and operational faults, while 28% were caused by third parties.

Unfortunately, those are not the only concerning numbers, as the recent report also shows that in Lot 192, the country’s most important oil asset, located in the Amazon, more than two thousand sites have been contaminated with oil and only 32 have been prioritized for remediation. In addition, the amount of pollution in those 32 affected places is equivalent, on average, to 230 national stadiums.

“Oil spills are a tragedy for indigenous communities, given their vital relationship with the river; in other words, a spill means consuming contaminated water, using contaminated water and stopping fishing, one of their most important economic activities”, explained Juan Carlos Ruiz, Coordinator of the Constitutional Litigation Area of ​​the Legal Defense Institute (IDL), during their participation in the Webinar “Pollution due to Oil Spills”, an online event that took place last Tuesday, February 22 and was organized by the Citizen Science for the Amazon Network, Pronaturaleza and Amazon Waters.

A comprehensive look

The diversity of voices and experiences allowed the event to serve as a space to identify all the issues that need to be addressed when talking about an oil spill: environmental impacts, regulations, citizenship, information transparency, extractivism, disclosure, possible solutions, etc. While the issue has gained some visibility in recent weeks, this is a threat  to  our ecosystem and has been present in our country for several decades.

Óscar Rada, a member of the Network’s partner organization, Pronaturaleza, a specialist in community environmental monitoring processes in hydrocarbon exploitation projects, mentioned that participation, surveillance and citizenship should not be just words, but real actions that can help to deal with these kinds of catastrophes. “Let’s look at the jungle, there are citizens with knowledge and experience, prepared to mitigate the effects of spills and guarantee remediation,” he stated. In addition, he added that if there were an active citizen surveillance system, we would know which companies have a contingency plan and which do not, therefore spills could be avoided.

Meanwhile, Tatiana Solano, an industrial engineer specializing in safety, health and the environment, as well as in nanotechnology, shared her experience creating contingency plans, technology and remediation protocols that connect the hydrocarbon sector with the corresponding environments ( agricultural, fishing, etc.); in other words, the specific features of each one of the ecosystems and their variables have to be included in the remediation plans, in this way the solution will not be “just cleaning up”, but rather recovering the damaged territory. “If a farmer lost his farm, he should be remedied and, in addition, his productive projects guaranteed,” she concluded.

Watch the full Webinar here and let us know your questions in the comments.