Chile Scraps Huge Patagonia Dam Project After Years of Controversy
By Brian Clark Howard
Chile's government canceled a controversial plan for five dams on two of Patagonia's wildest rivers Tuesday, after an eight-year battle between environmentalists and developers.
Chile's Committee of Ministers overturned the environmental permits for the HidroAysén project, which would have put dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers, flooding 5,900 hectares of land in order to generate hydroelectric power.
The committee had previously approved the permits in 2011, but has faced strong public opposition to the plan inside Chile and from the international environmental community. (See related blog post: "A Battle Over the Quest to Tap Patagonia's Rivers for Energy.")
"Patagonia's rugged and varied wilderness is truly an environmental treasure," Amanda Maxwell, Latin America project director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
"These giant dams would have put at risk the wilderness, traditional culture, and local tourism economy of this remarkable region."
Patricio Rodrigo, executive secretary of the Patagonia Defense Council, a coalition of nearly 70 Chilean and international organizations, said in a statement: "The government's definitive rejection of the HidroAysén project is not only the greatest triumph of the environmental movement in Chile, but marks a turning point, where an empowered public demands to be heard and to participate in the decisions that affect their environment and lives."
Incredible news and a great victory for the environment and Chile. The region of Patagonia is one of the most beautiful on Earth. Though some will argue that hydroelectric dams are renewable energy that is actually not the case.
Ten Things You Should Know About Dams
It is so gratifying to see people coming together for a good cause and actually winning. That seems to be a rarity these days.
The proliferation of mega-dams has been a blight on agriculture, culture and the rivers themselves. Construction companies in collusion with governments reap the rewards while the poor also suffer loss of homeland, farmland and are many times not the recipients of the energy being generated as it is outsourced to richer communities. There are other ways to generate renewable energy for a country the size of Chile that do not require destroying its beauty. Sources mentioned in the article are all viable however, reading that Chile may now seek to import natural gas is not a good thing. Why stand up so firmly to stop this dam and then revert to importing an energy source that also pollutes water and destroys land as well as contributing to climate change? I truly hope the government reconsiders this option and sticks to truly renewable sources, particularly as we see Patagonian glaciers receding rapidly. Also, be vigilant. The powerful interests do not give up easily.
This is just one glacier. The report linked above sites 90% have retreated rapidly between 2000-2011.
Also to end, this is not only about climate change and searching for a source to satisfy our lust for energy for ourselves. This is about a spiritual connection to the Earth that transcends the petty squabbles of humans. We must learn to never lose that connection we have to Earth. If we do videos like this will no longer be possible and we will have lost the greatest gift we have ever known.
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