The Piatúa River crosses the Pastaza province within the ancestral territory of the Kichwa People of Santa Clara. Piatúa is a sacred natural element for the Kichwa communities that settle on its banks. Its crystalline waters coming from the Llanganates are considered healing and are the livelihood of these communities.
In 2017 the Ministry of the Environment, omitting the processes of prior, gratuitous, and informed consultation and without the consent of the Kichwa People of Santa Clara, signed a concession contract with the company GENEFRAN S.A. and authorized the execution of a hydroelectric project in the Piatúa River for 40 years.
In addition, the Secretariat of Water and the Undersecretariat of the Hydrographic Demarcation of Napo authorized the intake of 90% of the ecological flow of the Piatúa River and its relocation to the Jandayacu River, seriously affecting the environmental balance of both rivers.
In 2019, a filing of a protection action for the violation of the collective rights of the Kichwa People of Santa Clara and the violation of the rights of nature of the Piatúa River occurred. The action was presented jointly by the Kichwa communities of Santa Clara, The Fundación Pachamama, the Pastaza Ombudsman's Office, the PUCE Human Rights Center, the Río Napo Foundation, and CONFENIAE.
The Provincial Court of Pastaza accepted the action and declared the violation of rights of the communities and the river. As a comprehensive reparation measure, it suspended the hydroelectric project in Piatúa and withdrew the authorization benefitting the river flow. At the same time, it revoked the environmental license authorized by the Ministry of the Environment for the development of the hydroelectric project.
The case has been a benchmark in the fight for the rights of nature, being a pioneer in the discussion on the rights of rivers and ecological flows.
In 2020, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador selected the case to generate binding jurisprudence on the rights of nature and collective rights.