Patagonia is located in the southern most region of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. Patagonia’s snow capped mountains, rugged coastline, white glaciers, expansive plains, deep blue rivers and abundant wildlife make it one of the most environmentally diverse and beautiful places on earth. Unfortunately, Patagonia is under threat.
HidroAysén, a company controlled by the international energy conglomerate Endesa/Enel, plans to construct five massive hydroelectric dams along the Baker and Pascua rivers, two of Chile’s largest rivers. The project was approved in May 2011 by the Chilean government environmental commission. 15,000 acres of globally rare forest ecosystems and productive agricultural lands will be flooded, displacing people and wildlife. A 1,912 km long transmission line will be constructed, traversing a seismically active region with volcanoes and clear-cutting ecologically sensitive and untouched areas of Patagonia.
Chile relies on oil imports and hydroelectric power for a majority of its energy needs. It is projected that Chile will need to double its electricity capacity generation over the next 10 to 15 years. Proponents of HidroAysén see the project as necessary to secure energy supplies to keep up with economic growth. Those opposing the project criticize the Chilean government for having no energy policy to develop renewable energy alternatives. Research shows that solar, wind, geothermal and biomass have the capacity to provide Chile with more energy than HidroAysén. Environmental impact assessments have failed to properly asses the real and impending destruction the dams will have on the environment. Opponents also fear that if built, HidroAysén will pave the way for other commercial projects to begin operations in Patagonia.
HidroAysén is an ecocide that has the potential of destroying one of the last natural wonders on earth. A majority of Chilean people oppose the project and fear the loss of their national treasure. Patagonia’s unique combination of geography, nature and culture must be protected.
As of December 2013, protests movements and the presidential election, combined with discrepancies in environmental impact assessments and disputes over funding, have halted the final approval of HidroAysén. Information will be updated as the project unfolds.
UPDATE January 2014:
Endesa, the company which owns 51% of HidroAysén, has removed the Aysén region project from their recent project portfolio. “The fact that Endesa Chile is no loner actively pitching HidroAysén to investors is a really important sign that company does not think the project is viable– that there is just too many problems with it,” said Amanda Maxwell, advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Both companies that own HidroAysén have fundamentally said that they don’t think it should move forward,” she said. However, because of the amount of money already invested in the project, it is unlikely that Endesa will permanently remove HidroAysén from their list of future projects. The decision is still a major victory for environmentalists, indigenous groups and the people of Chile who strongly oppose the dams, and is one step closer to maintaining a dam free Patagonia.
(available on Netflix)
(Episode 2,3,4 on http://rioslibres.com/)
(part 1 of 8)