In a historic court ruling, the US oil company Chevron has been fined $8.6 billion for polluting a huge area of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Seventeen years after the case was taken to the courts, Chevron has been charged with dumping 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste into streams and rivers, destroying the environment and polluting the waterways.
According to the lawsuit, thousands of indigenous people have been affected by high levels of toxicity in the soil and water, and cancer rates have risen significantly.
Despite initial jubilation, local Indians say the fine will not be sufficient to repair the damage. Emergildo Criollo, a Cofan indigenous leader whose two children died after drinking contaminated water, said, "You can’t recover dead people, there is no price for that. Our demand is to get enough money to clean up our Amazon."
Chevron has vowed to appeal the court’s decision and called the ruling "illegitimate and unenforceable."
Alberto Acosta, a former energy minister under President Correa said the ruling sent an important message to the oil industry. "This is a message to all those opportunistic oil and mining companies. This can show them what can happen if they keep destroying nature and human life."
Elsewhere in the Amazon, oil companies continue to pollute the forests that indigenous peoples depend on to survive. In Peru, more than 70 per cent of the Amazon has been sold off to oil and gas companies – many of whom are working on land without the consent of tribes who live there – and oil spills in the region are rife.