|Palm oil plantation in La Chiquita, Ecuador. Photo: Meche Lu.|
|A child collects water from a stream in La Chiquita. Photo: Meche Lu|
ELAW partners at ECOLEX have worked for more than 10 years to help the Afro-Ecuadorian community of La Chiquita and the indigenous peoples of Guadualito protect the Chocó rainforests and rivers from polluting palm oil operations. During this time, Meche Lu, ELAW Staff Scientist, traveled repeatedly to the Chocó to provide scientific support to the lawyers defending communities' rights to clean water.
Last month, the Provincial Justice Court of Esmeraldas ordered national authorities to provide safe drinking water, a sewage treatment plant, a school, and a health center to local communities.
In addition, the court ordered the Ministry of the Environment to perform annual audits to enforce environmental laws, and the government must not grant licenses for new or expanded palm oil plantations in San Lorenzo.
This order will bring great benefits to the community, but the victory is bittersweet, says ECOLEX attorney Manolo Morales:
"The community wanted the polluting companies fined and wanted compensation for environmental damages, but the court only directed the companies to create buffer zones along waterways and stop using chemicals that pollute waterways."
The communities will appeal.
Seeking justice for the disenfranchised takes time, patience, and financial resources.
Thank you Manolo and everyone at ECOLEX for your hard work with the communities of La Chiquita and Guadualito!
For more information about ELAW's partners in Ecuador and around the world, please contact:
ELAW Communications Director