The Amazon tribespeople who beat Chevron in court. But….

Alexander Zaitchik for Grist: “One day in early August, I took a long and lazy canoe trip down the Río Tiputini in northeastern Ecuador. My destination was the village of Guiyero, a remote dot of an Indian community more than a hundred miles downriver from the oil city of Lago Agrio.”
“The riverside hamlet is at the eastern edge of territory deeded to the Waorani, one of the largest tribes in the region. Situated where some of Ecuador’s last unspoiled wilderness meets its oil frontier, it is a good place to see what a resource extraction boom entering its sixth decade can do to a rainforest.
….After five decades of oil exploration in the area, and as a class-action lawsuit entering its 22nd year drags on in New York, villagers along the Tiputini are taking matters into their own hands, trying to clean the water that’s essential to health as a first step toward political and economic development and self-determination. Our trip was the organization’s first foray into the village, as well as the first trip by a U.S. journalist to report from the communities at the center of the multibillion-dollar suit against Chevron. Oil operations have made this kind of work necessary for more than 50 years. ClearWater has been at it for four.
….To get daily rations of clean water, Waorani women walk or hitchhike six miles to fill plastic jugs from a water truck owned and operated by Repsol.
….Fifty years after Texaco started drilling in the Cofán tribe’s hunting grounds, Criollo’s childhood village has given way to the gritty oil-boomtown sprawl of Lago Agrio, for decades Texaco’s base of operations. Oil infrastructure rings the city; flares, tanks, and piping loom behind concrete walls covered in murals depicting paradisiacal tableaux of clean rivers, happy Indians in face paint and tunics, and animal spirits. When Texaco pulled up stakes in 1994, it left behind more than just a city, roads, and a rusted plexus of pipes stretching across the Andes to coastal refineries and ports. Its wake included hundreds of open oil pits and billions of gallons of toxic wastewater dumped into the region’s waterways. This toxic legacy was well documented during the Chevron trial, which turned on conclusive scientific findings the Ecuadorian government continues to promote in official publicity campaigns.
The post-Texaco pollution spreading east and south, on the other hand, is a story the government has little interest in telling. While it has reined in the worst practices of earlier days, Petroamazonas, the state oil company, has built on the American company’s toxic legacy, expanding oil operations with the help of American, Spanish, and, increasingly, Chinese partners.
….If people outside South America know anything about the Ecuadorean Amazon, it is the multibillion-dollar class-action suit filed by Ecuadorean plaintiffs against Chevron (which absorbed Texaco in 2001). That legal battle over Texaco’s polluting the region between 1967 and 1994 seemed to have been settled in 2012 when Ecuador’s supreme court upheld a lower-court decision and ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion in damages to clean up its waste pits and general pollution. But Chevron countersued in New York and blocked that decision from being enforced on U.S. soil. The plaintiffs are now pursuing Chevron assets in third-party countries such as Canada and Brazil. The sprawling legal drama (which I covered for Rolling Stone) has attracted international media attention and spawned two books, but the five tribes of northeastern Ecuador (the Waorani, Kichwa, Secoya, Siona, and Cofán) can’t drink or bathe in newspaper ink.
….What they wanted was clean water. And they wanted to control it at the source. They told Anderson they were tired of being dependent on the duplicitous oil firms, which ran their communities as part reservation, part company town. Anderson organized an indigenous team led by Emergildo Criollo and made up of men and women from the five tribes of the region. He soon raised enough funds to start buying the components for hundreds of family-size bio-sand rain-catchment systems. He consulted with experts and settled on a simple, reliable technology.
Rainwater is captured in a 1,000-liter tank and filtered through layers of sand, crushed quartz, and gravel into another tank with a faucet attached. The water that flows out has been removed of particles and contaminates, a legacy of the pollution that independent contractor Louis Berger Group said — relying on data provided by Chevron itself — demonstrated an ongoing environmental catastrophe in the area. Each system costs $1,500 to build. With basic maintenance it can provide enough clean drinking water for a large family’s drinking, cooking, and washing for 20 years. In a region where the waterways and groundwater are thoroughly contaminated, but where average rainfall is between four and five meters a year, capturing rain is practical and effective.
In early 2011, the team began the tricky logistical work of transporting the systems by canoe into remote rainforest communities. It has since helped villages build approximately 600 systems, or roughly 120 for each of the five tribes. It plans to build another 150 by the end of the year. Every two days since the project began, on average, it has provided a family in the area with decades’ worth of clean water.”