Chile approves huge dam project on wild rivers, opening remote Patagonia to development
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of the NRDC appeals. Patagonia is a huge mountain chain in South America. It’s the source of thousands of rivers. The Chilean slopes are of the most beautiful places on planet earth.
The commissioners — all political appointees in President Sebastian Pinera’s government — concluded a three-year environmental review by approving five dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers in Aysen, a mostly roadless region of remote southern Patagonia where rainfall is nearly constant and rivers plunge from Andean glaciers to the Pacific Ocean through green valleys and fjords.
But, in reading through the article, I’m having a hard time forming an argument against the project. Only three families will be relocated and only 14,000 acres will be clear-cut and flooded. That’s not much. There are few animals there, none particularly vulnerable.
Chile’s economy and population is exploding. Wealth is increasing, and they frankly need more electricity. Most of the country’s electricity comes from hydro, rather than more destructive coal or risky nuclear power. This dam will generate 2.75 gigwatts of power (trust me, that’s really a lot of power!). On top of this, the government and the investors will create jobs, major infrastructure, and much needed investments in education. These are substantial concessions, which are quite rare in development projects of this scale.
The Aysen region will receive less expensive energy, jobs, scholarships and $350 million in infrastructure, including seaports and airports, said HidroAysen’s executive vice president, Daniel Fernandez.
UPDATE: Bloomberg is reporting loud protests.