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Hydroelectric project stopped
Latinamerica Press
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Government decided to cancel environmental permits for the controversial HidroAysén project.

The Chilean government cancelled on June 10 the environmental permits of the HidroAysén hydroelectric project, which included the construction of five damns in the western Patagonia region.

Promoted since 2007 by the Spanish-Italian company Endesa and the Chilean company Colbún, the project had planned to build five damns on the Pascua and Baker rivers, with reservoirs that would flood almost 6,000 hectares of land to generate 2,750 megawatts of electric energy, equivalent to 20 percent of Chile’s current installed capability. The investment was estimated at US$3.2 billion and included the construction of a 2,000 km (1,200 miles) transmission line from Patagonia to the heart of the country, which would be the longest in the world.

The decision was taken by a committee of ministers that included heads of the ministries of the Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Mining, Economy and Health, who unanimously accepted the 35 claims presented against the project, mostly by communities and opponents of the initiative, for its large environmental impact.

“This committee of ministers has decided to accept the claims presented by the community, by the citizenry, and revoke the environmental qualifications resolution of the HidroAysén Project, and through this final administrative act, the hydroelectric project is denied”, announced the Minister of the Environment, Pablo Badenier.

The Minister of Energy, Máximo Pacheco, declared in statements to the press that the HidroAysén Project “suffers from severe faults in execution by not treating with proper care and attention the matters related to the people who live there”.

Irreversible damages
Citizens and environmental groups resisted the project since it was announced seven years ago. In May 2011, massive protests swept the entire country after the government of former President Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014) gave a green light to the HidroAysén Project. However, a month later, an appeals court ordered the suspension of the project in response to three appeals for protection presented by legislators and environmentalists. Finally, in May 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the project.

Among the irreversible damages that the hydroelectric project would cause is the flooding of delicate ecosystems, including one part of the San Rafael National Park, and it would put in danger the livelihood of thousands of farmers and indigenous communities whose lands would disappear below the water.

According to the Movement Patagonia Without Damns, “the Endesa/Colbún hydroelectric megaprojects, with their flooding and joint works, would destroy basins of incalculable environmental value, would contribute to the extinction of species such as the huemul (deer), the symbol on our national shield, would affect one of the most important fresh water reserves of the word, affect the climate, accelerating the melting of glaciers and snowdrifts, compromising water resources shared with Argentina’.

Additionally, the movement points out that the gigantic towers and power lines “would severely disrupt the landscapes and ecosystems, not only in the Patagonia, but also of eight regions of the country, more than 200 communities, thousands of properties and dozens of protected areas in their way from the Aysén Region to Santiago. The loss of scenic value would mainly affect tourism, the main factor in economic development of the Aysén Region. 

The company has 30 days since the official notification to appeal the resolution in an environmental tribunal of the southern city of Valdivia. Daniel Fernández, Executive Vice President of HydroAysén, commented in a letter to investors with regards to the ministers’ decision that “the society that I represent continues with its willingness to develop the Aysén hydroelectric project” and that the company is not ruling out appealing to the justice system.
—Latinamerica Press.

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