The oil extractive industry can be considered the archetypal megaproject, in particular because it imposes a specific development model and because of its impacts on territories and populations in regions where there is exploration, exploitation and transport of crude oil. Its economic importance as the prime energy driver throughout the twentieth century has made oil a vital geostrategic ‘resource’ for any state in the world, and as such it has become the source of wars, huge booms and dramatic economic crises. Dependency on oil continues to be very high for most countries in the world.
The oil industry has been notable for its lack of scruples when it comes to maximizing profitability, with devastating consequences in production areas (with the capacity to affect other zones, if the huge oil spills in oceans and seas are taken into account) and inequitable in terms of the distribution of profits.
Industrial oil production began in Colombia 105 years ago and has been synonymous with violence, extinction, social disintegration and loss of lands for many indigenous peoples. It has entered the collective memory of peoples such as the Bari, Inga, Kofán, Sáliba, Siona, Pijao, Sicuani and U’wa, who have seen how the oil industry has drastically reduced their territories and peoples. Other peoples, such as the Yariguí, disappeared in the face of persecution by the oil industry, a fact barely recorded in history.
The oil industry has traditionally played an active role in the physical and cultural extermination of Colombia’s indigenous peoples, and many areas identified as having potential hydrocarbon reserves are in indigenous resguardos or are on indigenous ancestral lands. This puts many indigenous peoples in a highly vulnerable position. The arrival of the oil and gas companies is accompanied by damage to indigenous territories and violation of land rights, cultural weakening of communities, violence by the army and the illegal armed groups, food insecurity, pollution and deterioration in health…
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