Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A woman displays oil on her hands at a protest

Environmental activists protest outside the headquarters of the Peruvian Petroleum Company in Lima, Peru on August 22, 2016. On January 28, 2022, the latest oil spill in the Amazon rainforest sprayed crude oil and endangered Indigenous communities in Ecuador, campaigners said. (Photo: Sebastian Castaneda/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

'Disaster': Burst Pipeline Sprays Crude Oil Into Ecuadorian Amazon

"Spills have become a part of our daily life, and we live with the contamination for decades. The oil industry has only brought us death and destruction," said one campaigner.

Julia Conley

Indigenous environmental defenders in Ecuador on Sunday pointed to a pipeline rupture in the Amazon rainforest as "the exact reason why we oppose oil extraction" as the pipeline operator temporarily halted pumping crude oil.

A pipeline constructed by OCP Ecuador burst on Friday after a rockslide, according to NBC News. Videos posted on social media by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and Amazon Frontlines showed oil spraying out of the pipeline into the rainforest.

OCP Ecuador claimed it had contained the spill so “it cannot contaminate any bodies of water," but environmental defenders said the spill would be a "disaster" for more than 27,000 Indigenous Kichwa people living downriver from the spill on the banks of the Coca River.

More than 60,000 people depend on water from the river, according to NBC News.

"The river is contaminated. Look," said a campaigner in a video posted by Amazon Frontlines, showing oil flowing into the Coca River. "Thousands of liters are being spilled into the river. Thousands and thousands."

The group said OCP Ecuador "lied and knowingly endangered Kichwa communities" when it said in an official statement Saturday that the burst pipeline was not "directly exposed to rivers" and that the oil flow had been controlled.

"These are the lies that put lives at risk," said Amazon Frontlines. "We must end the impunity!"

The ruptured pipeline has caused the second major oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon in two years.

Indigenous communities are "still suffering impacts of massive April 2020 oil spill," said Amazon Frontlines, noting that a lower court threw out a lawsuit filed by the Kichwa last year; the case is now pending before Ecuador's Constitutional Court, with the plaintiffs demanding remediation of the oil spill.

"Spills have become a part of our daily life, and we live with the contamination for decades. The oil industry has only brought us death and destruction," Andres Tapia of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon told NBC News Sunday after the latest spill. "We are calling on the government to halt oil expansion plans and properly clean up this spill and all the others that continue to contaminate our territories and violate our rights.”

The pipeline that burst Friday pumps about 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

About two-thirds of the oil extracted from the Amazon rainforest is exported to the United States, and Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso has called for doubling the country's oil production since taking office last year.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Fulton County Subpoenas of Trump Allies Offer Hope 'That Justice Will Ultimately Be Served'

"The coordinated attempts by former President Donald Trump and his associates to discount and ignore the will of Georgian voters during the 2020 election cannot be swept under the rug," said one activist.

Jessica Corbett ·


Russian Official Makes Nuclear Threat Over US Support for Ukraine War Crimes Probe

Another official responded to Western sanctions by suggesting that Russia could reclaim Alaska.

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Denounced for Imposing New Sanctions as Iran Nuclear Talks Falter

One Middle East expert accused the U.S. administration of "continuing and embracing Trump's max pressure policy, while expecting a different result."

Brett Wilkins ·


Under 'Draconian Abortion Ban,' Woman in El Salvador Sentenced to 50 Years for Pregnancy Loss

Laws like El Salvador's are "now being replicated in states across the U.S.," noted one observer.

Julia Conley ·


Warren, Sanders, and Others Blast Biden's 'Failure' on Federal Cannabis Policy

While commending Biden's pardons and commutations, six senators wrote that "much more has to be done to address the racist and harmful legacy of cannabis policies on Black and Brown communities."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo