Positive Signs for Patagonia’s Rivers

Patagonia’s rivers have made headlines again—this time with surprisingly positive news.  Colbún, one of the two major owners of HidroAysén, is backpedalling from this controversial and risky project to dam two of Patagonia’s wildest rivers, including the Baker River, the western border of Conservacion Patagonica’s Patagonia Nation Park project. 

Baker River at the western entrance of the future Patagonia National Park

At the end of last week, Colbún recommended an indefinite suspension of HidroAysén by halting all work on the 1,200 mile-long transmission line’s environmental impact assessment. In a statement, Colbún cited the lack of clarity in national energy policy as the reason for its decision.  The Patagonia Sin Represas (Patagonia Without Dams) campaign has long advocated for a national energy policy, arguing that energy and the protection of Chile’s precious natural resources are too important to be left to haphazard development.  So we are delighted that Colbún agrees with us!

 Colbún’s announcement represents a step forward in the effort to save Patagonia’s rivers and develop forward-thinking national energy policies in Chile.  This move highlights the Sin Represas campaign’s effectiveness in educating the public and decision makers about the ecological, technical, and financial risks of the plan.  An increasing number of citizens are voicing their concerns about the impact the dams and transmission line would have on Chile.  They join us in advocating for healthier, responsible economic development in the Aysén region, based in ecotourism, conservation, ranching and small-scale fishing. 

Despite this positive sign, the campaign for Patagonia’s rivers is far from won.  Contrary to some media hype, HidroAysén is not cancelled.  Colbún may be pressuring the government to give stronger support to the project.  Conservacion Patagonica and our partners in the Sin Represas campaign are pursuing numerous strategies to defeat this project permanently: from legally challenging irregularities in the dam approval process to outlining the project’s risks to potential funders to helping accelerate the development of cleaner, more efficient energy supplies.  At this moment, it is difficult to predict how this campaign will unfold.  Meanwhile, we continue to focus on creating Patagonia National Park, which will serve as a keystone for regional touristic development.

 We’re not celebrating yet—now more than ever, we are working to build support for an alternative vision for Patagonia’s future. But we take heart at these momentous signs of dissention among the dam builders, and hope you do as well. 

Selected links for further reading–In English

In Spanish

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