Dams approved in Chilean Patagonia

So, after five years of protests from local and international campaigns, and despite the fact that 61% of the Chilean population are against the project, HidroAysen’s controversial dam proposal for Chilean Patagonia has been approved by the Chilean Government.

Despite serious conflicts of interest on the part of members of the Environmental Review Commission – with conflict of interest charges being filed against (and accepted) members of said Commission, including regional Governor Pilar Cuevas and other representatives. Despite several commission members having already recused themselves from the vote due to conflicts of interest – including the regional housing representative, regional environmental representative, regional energy minister, and the mining representative. Despite ongoing, country-wide protests (which continue in spite of a multimillion dollar scare tactic campaign by HidroAysen). Yes, the word corrupt comes to mind, doesn’t it?

Five dams. In an area of international significance and one of the most beautifully unspoilt regions in Chile. By a company whose environmental record is, to put it bluntly, shite.

At least 5,600 hectares of globally rare forest ecosystems, river valleys and farmlands in the Aysen region of southern Chile – including a portion of the Laguna San Rafael National Park – will be flooded. And the proposed 2,300km-long transmission lines to take electricity from Patagonia to Santiago (unbelievably, not part of the initial review by the Commission) will require the world’s longest clearcut through virgin rainforest, protected areas and national parks – not to mention a region which is geologically speaking highly unstable, with several active volcanoes and prone to earthquakes.

My only conclusion from this outcome can be that the Chilean Government cares very little about the country’s environment (including one of its national parks), the opinion of its citizens, the opinion of international organizations, or future revenue from international tourism. Or does HidroAysen simply have sufficiently deep pockets and enough friends in high places? For an author who recently spent months writing and researching a book on similar unspoilt areas of Chilean wilderness, this is deeply depressing. How do I continue to recommend people travel to a country which appears to show so little respect for its natural landscape?



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[…] controversial plan to build five dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers in Chilean Patagonia (see previous post) – or, to borrow the film’s subtitle, ‘a frontier story of water and […]