In a precedent-setting move, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador has announced it will take on the case of the threatened Los Cedros Protected Forest by using the Rights of Nature enshrined in the constitution. The Constitutional Court chose to hear this case recently and apply, for the first time, Ecuador’s constitutionally mandated Rights of Nature providing legal recognition for over 2.4m hectares (6m acres) of Protected Forests.
The government has been promoting large-scale metal mining for some years without respecting the national network of Protected Forests or Indigenous Territories.
José DeCoux, manager of Los Cedros explained: “We’re very excited that the Constitutional Court has picked up this case, specifically because it is recognizing the importance of setting precedence for the Rights of Nature. We have been presenting arguments that mining in Protected Forests is a violation of the legal status of declared Protected Areas; the collective rights of indigenous peoples; the Rights of Nature; and the right of communities to prior consultation before potential environmental damages.”
This is a microcosm of the current conflict between the Ecuadorian government and its intention to open the country’s untapped oil and mineral reserves to foreign investment and the long-held public sentiment in Ecuador against extractionist economic development (2). The impending case will help determine the balance between short-term economic gains through mining development and the slower — but generally more sustainable — economic development that accompanies long-term biodiversity conservation.
With the climate emergency, the case has taken on added urgency: the absolute imperative being now that carbon and water sequestering forests, and the biodiversity that they contain, are protected and kept intact.