Waste Management Conflict, Ecuador

Ecuador’s 2013-2017 Program of Government lists integrated solid waste management (ISWM) as a current topic on Ecuador’s national agenda. The program calls for the elimination of garbage dumps and the creation of technically managed sanitary landfills; however, establishing sanitary landfills has generated opposition from communities worried about the environmental impacts of these landfills on air, water, and soil resources. This conflict summary focuses on a still unresolved conflict concerning a landfill in the province of Cañar, Ecuador.

Conceptual Model

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksPollution creates public health risks.Public health risks cause growing discontent with the state.Pollution, and degradation of ecosystems, such as coral reefs.Pollution / Environmental DegradationRisks to the health of the population.Public Health RisksChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State Grievances

Conflict history

Since 2010, the canton of Cañar has experienced serious problems with waste management. In March of 2010, public perception of garbage dumps as threats to people and the environment prompted communities to demand their closure.  Because of what happened, the four municipalities of Cañar, Suscal, El Tambo and Biblián formed the Municipal Association Integrated Sanitation Company for the Cañari People (EMMAIPC-EP).

The Curiurcu alternative

In 2012, the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador (MAE), with the help of a consultant, determined that the best site for the proposed landfill was located in the community of Curiurcu. The Curiurcu alternative was optimal because it was located on municipal land. Municipalities acquired 57 hectares in 2010, and installations are planned for 6.5 hectares. A report by the consultant estimated that the construction of the landfill at this site would cost approximately US$2,600,000.

Curiurcu community opposition

Plans to build the Landfill in Curiurcu were met with community opposition.  In June 2012, the consultant informed the MAE that it would be impossible to make the final designs because the community would not let them in to finish their field work. This information was verified by the Ministry in August, witnessing the community of Curiurcu’s opposition to the project. Subsequently, building the Cañari People Association Solid Waste Treatment Center was opposed by political and community sectors such as the Committee to Defend Mother Earth (Pachamama) and Good Living, comprised by representatives of Curiurcu and the surrounding communities of Zhuya, Malal, Gaza, and Puruvín.

Waste management issue

Serious socio-environmental conflicts surround mismanagement of solid waste, especially when that waste, neglected by local governments, causes environmental pollution or negatively affects people, particularly those living near disposal sites. Although pollution from waste mismanagement has not yet been a detriment to local natural resources, simply the perception of this as a possibility is catalyst for conflict in these local communities. To add to the situation, the history of inadequate handling of related issues in this region has generated profound concerns regarding this issue.

Actors

Actor
Participation
Functional group
Geographical scale
Ministry of the Environment (Ecuador)
Ministry of the Environment (Ecuador)
Participation
Functional group
Public
Geographical scale
Internal national
Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano
Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano
Participation
Functional group
Civil Society
Geographical scale
Internal national
National Secretariat of Political Governance
National Secretariat of Political Governance
Participation
Functional group
Public
Geographical scale
Internal national
Conflict Party
Conflict Resolution Facilitator

Conflict resolution

Since 2012, there have been a series of meetings to discuss this issue.

National Secretariat of Political Governance assembly

In November 2013, the National Secretariat of Political Governance called an assembly in the affected communities to discuss this issue, yet none of the authorities who favour the implementation of the landfill attended.  At the assembly, the affected communities expressed their demands: to clarify details of the land purchase executed in 2010 by the municipalities, including the boundaries and the actual dimensions (the boundaries and the actual dimensions with deeds and with the owners from the community); to prevent the conclusion of the final designs that were not coordinated with the community; and to hold a meeting so that the authorities can hear the arguments of technicians and community members regarding their refusal of the proposal.

Series of discussion supported by the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano

In 2014, new mayors were elected and, with support from the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, a series of discussions were held with the communities, meetings were conducted among different levels of government and dialogues occurred between communities and authorities. In November of 2014, an assembly was attended by communities and the mayors they elected to agree on the steps necessary to reach an agreement. Currently, the  conflict is improving, and although factors such as public statements and confrontations or the detention of community groups of technicians have rekindled conflict, it has never resulted in violence. The stakeholders, a majority of which are technicians and politicians, have strived for collaboration when dealing with the conflict- In particular, the President of the Municipal Association has remained open to dialogue and to resolution by alternative means. However, community leaders have consistently maintained their refusal of the landfill and have gradually closed off  any possibilities of dialogue.

Resilience and Peace Building

2

Dialogue

Various meetings between the community of Curiurcu and authorities were held to discuss the issue and allow community leaders to express their concerns over the implementation of the landfill. Technicians and politicians have maintained a collaborative attitude in dealing with the conflict. Nonetheless, no resolution has been reached as community leaders have firmly maintained their position of refusing the landfill project.