Deep in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador, across the Andes from the Pacific Coast, an American oil company has discovered billions of gallons of oil.
The oil lies beneath an Indian reserve and a national park in one of the richest areas of biological diversity in all of the Amazon. The government of Ecuador, poor and deeply in debt, says the oil must be developed.
Recently, government officials granted a concession to Conoco to build a road an pipeline to extract the vast new deposits.
Conoco promised to take extraordinary precautions to protect the environment, saying this would be a model for rainforest development. Opponents of the plan point to the legacy of 25 years of oil development in Ecuador: Scores of poisoned rivers and epidemic disease for the Indians living in the country’s Amazon.
Rainforest activists in the U.S. threatened a boycott of the Dupont Corporation, which owns Conoco, if the oil company went forward with the plan.
In this report, Sandy Tolan and Nancy Postero go on a journey through the oil and Indian country of Ecuador to see what oil development has meant, and what this new plan might hold, for the people who liver there. The story begins at the edge of the jungle, near the headwaters of the Amazon.
Narration is by Edward James Olmos, who hosted a series of 13 half-hour Vanishing Homelands specials.