The Baker River, in Chilean Patagonia

Patagonia Sin Represas

The Patagonia sin Represas Campaign is fighting dams proposed on the Baker and Pascua rivers in southern Chile. International Rivers is a member of the Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia (CDP, or Patagonia Defense Council) a broad coalition of citizens, community groups, and national and international NGOs working to protect Patagonia from destructive development.

HidroAysén is proposing to build three dams on the Pascua River and two dams on the Baker River in the Aysén region of southern Chile. The dams would flood nearly 15,000 acres of globally rare forest ecosystems and some of the most productive agricultural land in the area.

HidroAysén is also hoping to build a 1,912-km-long transmission line that would traverse a seismically active region strewn with volancoes, and even run under the ocean for 160 km. The electricity from these dams would be sent thousands of kilometers north to serve Chile’s biggest cities and its mammoth copper industry, and none of the benefits of the project would benefit the unknown number of people who would be adversely affected by the HidroAysén dams or transmission line.

The HidroAysén dam proposal was first developed in 2006. In August 2008, HidroAysén submitted its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to Chilean authorities for approval. Due to serious flaws and omissions in the project plans, three addenda were required to address these shortcomings, and over 10,000 public comments were submitted. The HidroAysén Environmental Impact Assesment was approved by an 11-1 vote on May 9, 2011, despite outstanding flaws and omissions of critical data. Since then strong public opposition and legal roadblocks have continued to delay the project and call into question the viability of the environmental review process. A Supreme Court ruling in April 2012 in favor of HidroAysén caused a resurgence of unprecedented public opposition with subsequent legal actions against the project.

HidroAysén has yet to submit the EIA for the transmission line. In May 2012, Colbun – 49% owner of HidroAysen – publicly announced that it wanted to indefinitely suspend plans to seek environmental permission to build transmission lines to the capital" due to a lack of political agreement in the country around energy development.

Protests Against HidroAysén in Paris, May 2011
Protests Against HidroAysén in Paris, May 2011
© Margit Atzler

The campaign to protect Patagonia has become the largest environmental struggle in the country’s history. The tireless efforts of river defenders in Chile and around the world have helped delay project approval and create massive popular opposition – both within Chile and abroad – to HidroAysén. Unfortunately, project proponents are still pushing hard for a political victory that would allow them to advance with the estimated US$10 billion mega-project.



The Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia is working tirelessly to expose the problems with HidroAysén, as well as to propose alternatives that would offer sustainable development for Chile.

Chile is a country with many energy options. Studies by The University of Chile and other experts have found that HidroAysén is not necessary to meet Chile's future energy needs. Investment in more efficient use of electricity, together with renewable sources such as solar, geothermal and wind, would ensure a sustainable energy future for Chile. International Rivers and our partners are calling for the Chilean government and the private sector to support cleaner alternatives and to keep Chile's rivers wild.

More information: 
  • Sign up for our Rivers of Patagonia listserv
  • Read Dams for Patagonia from July 2010 Science Magazine. Includes an analysis HidroAysén and the proposal by Xstrata subsidiary Energía Austral to build another series of large dams in the region of Aysén.
 
 

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