Amazon Sacred Headwaters


Ecuador & Peru

Project risks:

Environmental Destruction, Social Harm


  • Petroamazonas EP
  • Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA)
  • China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)
  • Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP)
  • China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group)
  • CPC Corporation Taiwan
  • Repsol SA
  • Pluspetrol Resources Corporation BV
  • China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec Corp)
  • Sinochem Group Co Ltd
  • Tecpetrol International SA
  • Frontera Energy Corporation
  • GeoPark Ltd
  • Gran Tierra Energy Inc
  • PA Belorusneft
  • Compañía Españolade Petróleos SA (Cepsa)
  • PetroChina Company Ltd
  • Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC)
  • Perenco SA
  • Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam)
  • Posco International Corporation
  • KunLun Energy Company Ltd
  • SK Innovation Co Ltd

read less

read more

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters region is located in Ecuador and Peru. Credit: Kmusser, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

There is no climate stability without the Amazon Rainforest. In the age of bushfires and species extinction, companies are extracting oil in the Amazon Sacred Headwaters. With their projects, the oil companies are pushing this beautiful rainforest and its people to the brink.

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters region houses the world’s most biodiverse ecosystem on land. It is located in Ecuador and Peru and is part of the Amazon rainforest. The Sacred Headwaters region is the birthplace of the Amazon River. No other river in the world carries as much water as the Amazon River. Jaguars, pink river dolphins, anacondas, howler monkeys and thousands of other animal species and unique plants find a home in this paradise. About half a million indigenous people from 20 different indigenous nationalities live alongside them in the Headwaters region.

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters region is the birthplace of the Amazon River. The river travels all the way through Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Caroline Bennett, Amazon Watch
It is home to thousands of animals, such as Poison Dart Frogs. Credit: Bejat McCracken

Under the lush forest, oil companies have discovered large deposits of oil. To access it, Gran Tierra, CNPC, Repsol and the other companies are carving roads into the wilderness and ripping out old-growth trees. Their oil production is speeding up deforestation in the entire region. Currently, the Amazon rainforest is 83 percent intact. Scientists have warned that we can no longer halt the deforestation if this figure drops below 80 percent. This would inevitably turn the Amazon rainforest into a savannah. With their pursuit of oil, the companies are pushing the Amazon rainforest, its peoples, plants and animals, and thereby our world’s climate, over the edge.

First, the oil companies bulldoze the ancient Amazon rainforest to make space for their oil production. Credit: J. Yurasek
Then, the companies extract the oil in the middle of the rainforest. Credit: Amazon Watch

Oil companies have a toxic legacy in the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region. In April 2020, they caused the worst oil spill in 15 years in the rainforest. The oil polluted hundreds of miles of river and destroyed the livelihoods of 27,000 indigenous people. 18 months on, the people still have to drink contaminated water. Many indigenous people live less than an hour’s walk away from oil production sites. Researchers have found that the closer they live to the oil sites, the more frequently they suffer from cancer and high lead levels in their blood.

Indigenous peoples are fighting the oil companies. To force the unwanted guests out of the rainforest, they are organizing themselves in regional and global alliances. With protests and lawsuits, they have already driven huge companies like ConocoPhillips, Eni and Petrobras out of the Amazon rainforest. Still, GeoPark, GranTierra, Frontera Energy, CNPC and other companies are planning to expand their oil production in this unique ecosystem. To banish all oil companies from their home, indigenous peoples and NGO allies are increasingly targeting financiers and investors. Any financial institution backing these companies must expect resistance.


In January 2022, history repeated itself. A pipeline leaked massive amounts of oil into the rainforest in the Napo province, the same region as of the 2020 spill.[1] Heavy rains had caused a mudslide.[2] When a rock crashed on the OCP pipeline, it burst and spilled thousands of liters of oil into the rainforest and the Coca River.[3] [4] [5] The River is a lifeline for the indigenous communities who live along it.[6]

Everywhere they go, the oil companies leave dirty traces. Credit: Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai
The spill in April 2020 polluted the river running through the Sani Isla community. Due to the oily water, Damary Mayerli Grefa has developed skin problems. Credit: Ivan Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai
Verónica Grefa, leader of the indigenous Toyuca community (left) and Severino Sharupi, Shuar leader of Pastaza won’t be silent until all oil companies have left their home. Credit: Alejandra Yépez Jácome, Amazon Watch

Groups working on the Amazon Sacred Headwaters: Aidesep, Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, Pachamama Alliance, CONFENIAE - ​​Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana, ORPIO - Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente, Gobierno Territorial Autónomo de la Nación Wampís, Clínica Ambiental, Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos - Perú EQUIDAD, Unidad Territorio Justicia y Libertad, Amazon Watch,, SOMO, Oxfam Novib, If not us then who, Amazon Frontlines

Special Report: The Amazon Sacred Headwaters: Indigenous Rainforest “Territories for Life” Under Threat ( & Amazon Watch (2021). Banking on Amazon Destruction ( & Amazon Watch (2021). European Banks Financing Trade of Amazon Oil to the U.S. (