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Victory: Ecuador’s High Court Orders Halt to Contamination from Palm Oil Production

Palm oil plantations are threatening the biodiversity of Chocó, an ancient forest in Ecuador. The companies managing these plantations have caused massive destruction to the forest, endangering rare species and displacing local farmers with near impunity. In September 2007, the Constitutional Court ordered remediation and accountability for the damage.

The order came a year after AIDA teamed up with its Ecuadorean partner, ECOLEX, to document and shed light on the negative impacts of palm oil cultivation in Ecuador. The waste from the plantations, including pesticides and dangerous chemicals, contaminated nearby rivers and waterways. This harmed fish and plants and significantly affected the health and livelihoods of local communities.

The evidence was compelling enough to lead ECOLEX in September 2006 to file a constitutional suit against the Ministry of the Environment and plantation owners to protect the human right to a healthy environment. AIDA supported ECOLEX’s legal action with arguments from international environmental law.

The following year, the Constitutional Court (the highest court in Ecuador) ordered the Ministry to remediate the damages caused by the palm oil plantations and take measures to control and mitigate future potential harms.

Shortly after, the Ministry filed an appeal. But the appeal was not successful, and the Constitutional Court reinforced its original decision.

The decision is an important victory for those who suffered from the irresponsible palm oil cultivation in Ecuador. More importantly, the high court set a legal precedent that can be used by lower Ecuadorean courts in deciding environmental cases. With the victory, AIDA will be looking for more opportunities to protect Ecuador’s natural bounty.