After a ten-hour debate, Ecuador’s parliament has approved drilling for oil in Yasuni National Park.
Yasuni, in the western Amazon region, which boasts some of the planet’s most diverse wildlife, holds close to a billion barrels of valuable crude oil.
President Rafael Correa had planned for rich nations to pay to maintain a moratorium on such exploration, but failed to raise enough money to put the brakes on an ever-voracious oil industry.
Although Correa says the earnings potential, equivalent to 16 billion euros, will be used to combat poverty in the South American nation, there have been protests from indigenous groups and green campaigners.
They undertook a petition campaign to hold a referendum to decide whether to exploit or conserve oil at the national park.
Shortly after, 30 mayors of indigenous towns in the park came out in support of the drilling plan.
The government-dominated National Assembly attached conditions to minimise the impact on both the environment and local tribes.