Vilcabamba River case law: 1 year after

News bulletin on the implementation of the first nature rights sentence[1]

Gabriela León Cobo
Pachamama Foundation

Nature Rights. Can they be exercised? The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, through one of its founding organizations, Fundación Pachamama, points towards its enforcement. Thereby, in the Vilcabamba River case law, it is necessary to reinforce the recognition of the Constitution of Ecuador where Nature is a subject of rights. This recognition is found within the Ecuadorian State liabilities towards the achievement of the good living or sumak kawsay.

Vilcabamba River - Signs

Signs (against littering and for environmental restoration)

After a year since the Vilcabamba River sentence has been issued (See First Successful Case of Rights of Mother Earth), its implementation by the Provincial Loja Council is incomplete and careless. Contrary to the Provincial Court of Justice of Loja’s orders, in reference to the Vilcabamba-Quinara road, the Council has to present the studies on the environmental impact and the remediation and rehabilitation plan for the affected river and the riverside population which they have not.

The 24th of February of 2012, Fundación Pachamama accompanied Eleanor Geer Huddle and Richard Frederick Wheeler, who demanded the observance of the rights of nature, in a judicial inspection to observe the condition of the Vilcambamba River’s case law implementation.  On this occasion, we observed that the Loja Council only demonstrated its compliance by placing of signs, some kind of containment for the deposit of liquid and solid waste, and a superficial cleaning of the riverside’s Vilcambaba River.

Vilcabamba River Restoration

Signs at perimeter of Vilcabamba River restoration site

Fundación Pachamama considers that, without the environmental studies we cannot analyze the damage’s dimension and it is an obligation of the Ecuadorian State to adopt efficient and appropriate measures to prevent further environmental impacts due the precautionary principle. Specially now, that the damage is confirmed by a constitutional sentence; the Ecuadorian government must repair and carry out a fair compensation to the Nature’s ecosystem. Furthermore, a study should be done in a healthier non-affected part of the river to compare where should the restoration lead.

Accordingly to the caused damage, the Provincial Loja Court delegated the implementation of the sentence to the Environmental Department and the Loja’s Ombudsman. Considering that, in environmental issues, the Ecuadorian State has the obligation to guarantee an effective judicial protection, Fundación Pachamama encourages the complete compliance through a constitutional action for non-compliance.

Vilcabamba River Restoration signs, trucks and tanks

Vilcabamba River Restoration signs, trucks and tanks

These constitutional action, demands the compliance of the sentences at the Constitutional Court, the highest jurisdictional organ in Ecuador, which has the function of knowing and emitting a sanction for the non-compliance of constitutional sentences which protect the Rights of Nature.

With these purpose, it’s important to remind that the Ombudsman has the duty to promote and defend Human Rights and Nature Rights. Therefore, Fundación Pachamama manifests its concern with the non-attendance of the Loja’s Ombudsman in the implementation inspection the 24th of February, 2012, and in general for the lacking of any kind of measure to verify its accomplishment.

Fundación Pachamama support the successful implementation of the Vilcabamba River’s case, and the complete compliance of the first case sentence in favor of Nature’s Rights, dignifying this important resolution that recognizes the undeniable and evident importance of Nature and its rights to fully respect its existence and the maintenance and regeneration of its vital cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary process.

[1] Provincial Court of Justice of Loja, sentence No. 11121-2011-0010, March 30, 2011