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Ecuador: A Model of Green Enterprise
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Ecuador: A Model of Green Enterprise

Decades of oil drilling in Ecuador has devastated huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest and its wildlife, threatening to destroy the ancestral homes of native tribes and their culture. But some of these indigenous people are finding a way to balance development and conservation. 

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Produced by UN 21st Century.

Learn more about UNESCO's efforts to support environmentally responsible entrepreneurial efforts in Ecuador.

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Segment 1

DALJIT DHALIWAL
Decades of oil drilling in Ecuador in South America has devastated huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest and its wildlife, threatening to destroy the ancestral homes of native tribes and their culture. But some of those people are finding a way to balance development and conservation. Here's our story.
VOICEOVER
It's early morning. A loud screeching noise fills the air. Appearing in twos and fours, the parakeets and parrots arrive. They descend from the rainforest, branch by branch, to the clay bank below. They come for the mineral-rich clay, an antidote to the toxins in the nuts and seeds. This corner of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle is the Yasuni National Park. It's a lush habitat for many kinds of plants and wildlife. The park contains more species of flora and fauna than all of North America. Tourists from around the world come to see the dramatic diversity of life: more than 550 recorded species of birds, and the endangered giant otters. The Yasuni National Park covers two and a half million acres of rainforest in the easternmost part of Ecuador. The park is known as one of the most bio-diverse places on earth, and UNESCO designated the area as a "biosphere reserve" to protect its wildlife and to ensure sustainable livelihoods. But the park also sits on large oil deposits. And behind its seemingly peaceful lushness lies a struggle by the indigenous peoples to protect their ancestral land against reckless exploitation by oil companies.
GIOVANNI RIVADNEIRA
Oil has spilled all over the Amazon River.
VOICEOVER
Giovanni Rivadneira is a Quechua Indian from the Anangu community.
GIOVANNI RIVADNEIRA
With all the exploitation that has been done, the community has gotten absolutely nothing. We don't have water, we don't have a good education, and we don't have good health.
VOICEOVER
Lured by the quick money offered by oil companies, some communities have allowed them to extract oil on their land. Amazon crude production has been the main source of revenues that keeps Ecuador's economy afloat. But four decades of oil exploitation has left a legacy of deforestation and pollution, threatening not only the plant and animal life, but also the lives of indigenous people. Living inside the Yasuni Park, people in the Anangu community are struggling to make ends meet. Some 300,000 indigenous people call the rainforest their home. Many are hunters, gatherers, and small-scale farmers. Job opportunities have been scarce. Ten years ago, they came up with an economic alternative that would provide jobs for their people and keep oil companies from destroying their land.
GIOVANNI RIVADNEIRA
In one community meeting, I said we could build something here in this beautiful place God has given us. Here in the forest, we have everything. So I proposed to my community to work in sustainable tourism.
VOICEOVER
With seed money from a non-governmental group, people in Anangu started to design and build the tour center by themselves. It took five years to complete. Called the Napo Wildlife Center, it's the first native owned and operated lodge in the Yasuni National Park, and a certified ecological destination in Ecuador. Fausto Cornejo was hired by the community to help manage the business. He is making sure that the lodge maintains its commitment to conservation.
FAUSTO CORNEJO
We do not discharge anything to the soil or to the lake. All the water that comes from the toilet or from the kitchen goes to the septic tanks. And these septic tanks will distribute the gray water and black water to a system of wetlands. You see the grass, this one. This is the one that is purifying all the gray water and black water. Every two months, we test the water that comes out, and gives us around 95 percent free of bacteria, and that means that it's purer than the lake.
VOICEOVER
The lodge now has four solar panels collecting energy for the electricity. The plan is to rely on solar power for all its energy needs in the future. The Napo Wildlife Center has caught the attention of Tatiana Calderone from the United Nations World Tourism Organization. She is part of a United Nations program that helps communities inside the Yasuni biosphere develop eco-friendly projects.
TATIANA CALDERONE
We think sustainable tourism is a key for any conservation or preservation program. That's the model we could find in Napo Wildlife Center. We want to apply that model in other communities.
VISITOR
I think that it's an excellent idea. It's better than some multinational lodge motel operation. This is what the indigenous people need.
GIOVANNI RIVADNEIRA
We want to show everyone there are many job opportunities by taking care of the forest. Working for an oil company is not the only way. I am very proud to be part of a project that is going to give us profit and this profit is going to be invested in education, health, culture, and protecting our environment.
VOICEOVER
Sustainable tourism provides development, and leaves a small footprint on environment. It's a boost to the local economy, and the project's supporters are hopeful it can be a viable alternative to oil.
DALJIT DHALIWAL
Ecuador is asking the international community to compensate it for the loss of oil income in exchange for a moratorium on drilling in one of the largest oilfields in the Yasuni National Park. Several countries have committed funds to study this initiative.