In the Amazon Rainforest, a unique post-carbon plan to mitigate global warming and to protect the exceptional bio-cultural diversity was experimented in 2007–2013 by the Ecuadorian government. To preserve the rainforest ecosystems within the Yasuní-ITT oil block, the release of 410 million metric tons of CO2
would have been avoided. The neologism “yasunization” emerged as an Amazonian narrative on “unburnable carbon” to be replicated worldwide. Considering the unburnable carbon, petroleum-associated gas flaring represents the unleakable part. Flaring is an irrational practice that consists of burning waste gases, representing not only a leak of energy but also a pollution source. The general aim of the paper is to monitor gas flaring as a tool, revealing, at the same time, the implementation of environmental technologies in the oil sector and the compliance of sustainable policies in the Amazon region and the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve. Specific objectives are: (i) identifying and estimating gas flaring over seven years (2012–2018); (ii) mapping new flaring sites; iii) estimating potentially affected areas among ecosystems and local communities. We processed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Nightfire annual dataset, based on the elaboration of imagery from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and developed a GIS-based novel simple method to identify new flaring sites from daily detections. We found that 23.5% of gas flaring sites and 18.4% of volumes of all oil industries operating in Ecuador are located within the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve (YBR). Moreover, we detected 34 additional flaring sites not included in the NOAA dataset—12 in the YBR and one in Tiputini field, a key area for biological and cultural diversity conservation. We also found that at least 10 indigenous communities, 18 populated centers and 10 schools are located in the potentially affected area. Gas flaring can be used as a policy indicator to monitor the implementation of sustainable development practices in complex territories.
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