Long wait for justice in Amazon pollution case

Hundreds of families caught in 22-year-long legal battle with Chevron over Ecuador pollution, with no end in sight.

Priyanka Gupta | | Environment, Latin America, Ecuador

It is exactly 22 years since the first class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the residents of the Ecuadorian Amazon region, known as the 'Oriente,' against Texaco in New York for allegedly causing environmental damage and increasing the risk of exposure to diseases like cancer among others. 

The US company is accused of dumping toxic waste water carrying hazardous hydrocarbons and carcinogenic materials into the surrounding water bodies and rain forests, during its oil exploration and drilling operations between the late 1960s and early 1990s.

Hundreds of families have been caught in the legal battle with the US multinational energy company Chevron, which had acquired Texaco in 2001.

The company has denied any involvement and has called the allegations false.

Activists and lawyers representing the community say the remediation process carried out by Texaco to remove toxic waste from open pits and wells did not fix the problem, instead more than two decades later, saying a simple drill under the surface reveals mud-soaked in oil.

In 2013, Ecuador's highest court imposed a fine of $9.5bn on the company, upholding an earlier ruling by a local court, holding it responsible for pollution in the Amazon.

The case is now caught in international tribunals and class actions suits in several other countries. For the families of Lago Agrio, it has been a long wait for "justice".

Priyanka Gupta reported from Ecuador on a fellowship from the International Reporting Project (IRP)

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