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Story Publication logo March 7, 2022

The Cost of the Homeland (Spanish)

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The Map of Death seeks to offer a visual understanding of the destruction registered in the...

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This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit La Barra Espaciadora. You may also view the original story on our Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. The website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.



Aerial view of the intake site of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric power plant. The properties of Gilbert Tixe and Mercedes Caiza, two of the hundreds of inhabitants of the area that have been affected by the construction of the project, extend toward the wooded area, as their lands have been used as dumps and their accesses have been taken away from them. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The construction of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric power plant caused the disappearance of the San Rafael waterfall on February 2, 2020. This event unleashed a process of irreversible regressive erosion that caused pipeline ruptures and more than 21,000 barrels of oil spilled. At least 27,000 Amazonian indigenous people lost access to water and healthy food. The road connection between Quito and the northern Amazon was destroyed. Everything happened under the cover of impunity and the Ecuadorian State decided to go for more.


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"We extract oil, which is the blood of the earth; we build large hydroelectric dams, altering the geomorphology of the land and the direction of the rivers; we hurt the earth in every way and she speaks to us, she complains to us, but we do not understand her".

Jairo Cabrera, inhabitant of El Chaco.

Like Water Between the Fingers

The Amazon is the largest freshwater reserve on the planet. Its tropical forests occupy 7.4 million square kilometers of the surface of South America and its more than 600 billion trees are indispensable for maintaining the climatic balance around the globe. Thanks to solar energy, these immense trees and the rest of the Amazonian vegetation allow the evaporation of such a large quantity of water that it makes rain possible. Forests make life possible.

The Amazon River basin began to form about 11 million years ago, until about 2.4 million years ago it took on the shape we know today. The jungles of the Amazon basin act as a pump that moves the humidity of the Atlantic Ocean under the earth and also through the air, by means of the so-called flying rivers. This immense jungle causes constant rainfall to feed its rivers as if they were veins and arteries, and keeps the water cycle constantly alive.


On January 28, 2022, more than 6,000 barrels of oil spilled in the same place where in April 2020 the two Ecuadorian pipelines and the Ecuadorian polyduct ruptured, releasing more than 15,000 barrels into the waters of the Coca River. The private company OCP Ecuador tried to minimize the seriousness of the event and resumed pumping crude oil without having cleaned the river basin and without the affected communities having been repaired even for the damages caused in 2020. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

Since the process of regressive erosion began in 2020, Celec made several attempts to contain the waters of the Coca River. This aerial image shows the proportion between the size of the backhoes, the containers, and the current of one of the largest rivers in Ecuador's Amazon. Image by Cortesía of Celec.

The president of the Gonzalo Diaz de Pineda parish GAD, Luis Salazar (left), and Jairo Cabrera tour the area of the January 28, 2022, spill. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

These two images show the area where OCP Ecuador attempted to build seven different variants of the pipeline, climbing over the hill next to the sinkhole opened by the regressive erosion. The first, taken the first week of December 2021, shows the small bridge over the Piedra Fina River at the upper end. This bridge, on the far left of the second image, taken the second week of December 2021, is already on the edge of the sinkhole. Toward the center of the image, one can see the route of the seventh bypass, which at that time was being built on the hill, the same one that collapsed definitively on January 28, 2022. Images by OCP Ecuador.

These two images show the area where OCP Ecuador attempted to build seven different variants of the pipeline, climbing over the hill next to the sinkhole opened by the regressive erosion. The first, taken the first week of December 2021, shows the small bridge over the Piedra Fina River at the upper end. This bridge, on the far left of the second image, taken the second week of December 2021, is already on the edge of the sinkhole. Toward the center of the image, one can see the route of the seventh bypass, which at that time was being built on the hill, the same one that collapsed definitively on January 28, 2022. Images by OCP Ecuador.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The regressive erosion of the Coca River demonstrated the essence of the official discourse of the different governments of Ecuador: Oil is not a bad thing to talk about. But it also showed once again that the decision to build a hydroelectric plant with a much greater generation capacity than what had been contemplated in the technical studies was only a political decision. Years later, official voices insist on blaming nature for an erosive process that specialists attribute to the intervention in the Coca river basin. Nearly 30,000 Amazonian inhabitants are victims of a succession of decisions that never took them into account. Images by Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.