Evidence Impact: Residents use drones and apps to protect the Ecuadorian Amazon
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, a highly biodiverse tropical rainforest, more than 3,000 active oil wells pose threats to both the people and wildlife who live there. In addition to accidental oil spills, these wells' operators sometimes intentionally discharge toxic byproducts of the oil production process into streams and rivers.
A 3ie impact evaluation found that community monitoring in which rainforest residents used drones could help identify oil spills and other environmental impacts of these wells and report them to the government. After researchers presented this evidence to the Ecuadorian government, it enshrined such community monitoring into a 2018 law regulating extractive industries.
The monitoring intervention was based around a kit of drones, smartphones, and apps to allow early detection, documentation, and transmission of evidence (like photos) relating to environmental impacts like oil spills. These kits went to monitoring teams belonging to two Ecuadorian organizations representing indigenous and mestizo residents of the rainforest region.
The monitors who operate the equipment are often farmers or day laborers. They spend one day per month on regular monitoring, in addition to making visits to any site where a community member alerts them to a potential problem.
The evaluation found that communities with such monitoring teams detected and reported more environmental issues than those without the monitoring teams. Better detection and reporting of environmental damage could strengthen regulation and remediation to protect the biodiversity of even remote regions of the rainforest. They can also help to raise awareness and compensate those harmed.
With this evidence in mind, Ecuador's government included community environmental monitoring in its 2018 law regulating economic activity, including oil extraction, in the Amazon region.
To learn more about the study and its role in influencing the law in Ecuador, check out the evidence impact summary here. You can also find dozens of other evidence impact summaries about how evaluation evidence informed decision-makers across a variety of sectors in this new section of our Evidence Hub.