Ecuador: oil spill threatens unique eco-systems warns CIIR

 The Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) partner, Rumicocha Ecological Foundation (FER) is deeply concerned by a huge oil spill from a pipeline detected on the morning of 8 April in the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, an area under its supervision. The oil is leaking from the Transecuatorian Oil Ducts (SOTE) into the Papallacta Lagoon and the Sucus River of the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. The reserve, protected by the Ecuadorian government, covers 403,103 hectares in north-east Ecuador. It contains volcanoes, including the snow-capped 5,790 metre high Cayambe, paramo - high altitude plains - 81 lakes and the Coca river, which flows into the Amazon. The spillage happened at about 5am. At 9am the phone rang in FER's office, informing its staff that an oil spill was covering one quarter of the lagoon. FER, a non-governmental organisation based in Quito, works with the Ministry of the Environment and the Municipal Government of Quijos to conserve the biodiversity of the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. FER's technical experts are at the reserve to evaluate the oil spill's environmental impact and investigate further its origin. The reserve was created partly to preserve the wooded habitat of the Spectacled Bear, the Tremarctos ornatus, a seriously endangered species, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the World Conservation Union. Ecological disasters such as this oil spill further threaten the survival of the Spectacled Bear as well as that of the many other animals living in the reserve's unique habitat. The oil spill also has severe consequences for many of the 1.4 million residents of Quito, Ecuador's capital. The city is only an hour's drive from the reserve and receives much of its clean drinking water from the reserve's lakes and lagoons. The remoteness of much of the reserve and problems with local communication mean that many environmental disasters in the region remain unreported and unpunished. Indeed, the Cayambe-Coca ecological reserve is no stranger to environmental controversy. It is one of seven national parks and protected reserves affected by the controversial OCP (Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados) project. OCP is a new pipeline, due for completion in June 2003, that transports heavy crudes extracted in the Amazon basin to Ecuador's coastal port of Esmeraldas, destined mostly for the US. The project - funded by a consortium of international oil companies, insurance and pension funds and supported by the International Monetary Fund - endangers local communities and fragile ecosystems along its 300-mile route. International Cooperation for Development (ICD), CIIR's skillshare programme, has been working with local partners to support development projects in Ecuador since 1973. ICD has a field office in Quito, Ecuador's capital. ICD supports FER by providing a skilled development worker, an ecologist who is helping to design an environmental education programme Source: CIIR

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