By: Sarah Bardeen, former Senior Communications Director

The Puelo River needs your support!

The Puelo, which originates in Argentina, is one of the largest rivers in Chilean Patagonia and a great tourist attraction. Divided up in two sub-basins, the Manso River and Puelo Lake, the Puelo is known for its outstanding beauty and untouched, pristine state. The river is just one part of a majestic landscape that includes glaciers, volcanoes and virgin forests, as well as seven lakes: Tagua Tagua, Vidal Gormaz, Las Rocas, Victoria, Azul, Inferior and Totoral. The region also hosts countless lagoons and streams – and all are linked by the Puelo River. The valleys of the Puelo support a vibrant and fragile ecosystem, and hundreds of families depend on these resources for daily sustenance.

The waters of the Puelo are threatened by the 210 MW hydroelectric Central de Pasada Mediterráneo project, which will include a transmission line. Developers would install 203 towers – up to 150 meters high – in the middle of one of the most visited sections of the touristy Cochamó town. 

The community of Puelo and the Puelo Sin Torres campaign have been fighting successfully for years against the project owners Endesa and Mediterráneo. Last year, Endesa relinquished their water rights and pulled out of the project, and Mediterráneo Company faces mounting legal obstacles. In November of last year, the Third Environmental Tribunal of Chile (Valdivia) canceled the Environmental Qualification Resolution (RCA) of the Mediterráneo Central hydroelectric plant, which the company planned to build on the Puelo River in the Los Lagos Region.

The Environmental Tribunal said that developers had not consulted with the Mapuche indigenous peoples. El Puelo Mapuches, due to their cosmovision, oppose mega-projects, and their decision must be respected according to ILO Convention 169, an international treaty on the rights of indigenous peoples that Chile ratified in 2008. 

This is all good news for those who want to protect this pristine river basin. But the Energy Ministry is not giving up: It has ambitious hydroelectric ambitions in the area, and the proposed projects threaten to turn the Puelo Valley into a hydroelectric ditch basin. 

We know from long experience that a bad proposed project never really dies – it just pops up under different names, year after year. In order to stop the cycle, we must win permanent protection for the Puelo River and keep it safe once and for all. That why we’re pursuing Water Reserve status for the Puelo with our Chilean partners.

Please support Puelo sin Torres in its campaign to permanently protect the magnificent Puelo River by declaring it a Water Reserve.

Geute Conservación SurEcosistemasTerram and International Rivers are working towards legislation to protect free-flowing rivers in Chile.

More information: 
Puelo Patagonia
Video: Puelo Reserva de Agua
– International Rivers’ Wild and Scenic Rivers Campaign

Photo: Puelo River Photo by: Anonymous