Victory for Wild Rivers in Patagonia

Baker River Delta, Chile. Photo by Germán Póo-Caamaño, Wikimedia Commons.

ELAW partners in Chile sent exciting news last week:
Mega-dam projects threatening wild rivers in Patagonia have all been shelved!
Ezio Costa Cordella, Executive Director of Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente (FIMA), writes:
“I want to share our happiness… It has been a long struggle with multiple actors fighting on different fronts… the Supreme Court, the Valdivia Environmental Court, and the Santiago Environmental Court have rejected the environmental licenses of the three projects we were challenging:  Mediterráneo-Río Puelo, Río Cuervo, and HidroAysen,.”
For more than 15 years, FIMA has provided legal support to local groups in Chile working to protect Patagonia from hydroelectric schemes to dam wild rivers. FIMA has called on ELAW to review Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for these short-sighted projects.
For example, in the early 2000’s the Toronto-based Noranda Inc. proposed to dam the Cuervo, Blanco, and Condor Rivers for the multi-billion dollar “Alumysa” aluminum smelter project. Aluminum smelters demand enormous amounts of energy, so when aluminum producers see remote wild rivers, they think cheap hydro power.
FIMA led the legal challenge that halted this project.
In 2008, FIMA and ELAW worked to protect the Pascua and Baker Rivers from the $3.2 billion HidroAysen project.  This project proposed to feed energy into the national grid, which would have required 1,900 miles of transmission lines crossing national parks, wildlife protected areas, and forest reserves. ELAW scientists collaborated with FIMA and local Chilean organizations to review the project’s EIA. The project faced stiff opposition from national and international groups concerned about the irreversible impacts on protected areas, pristine wild rivers, and the local people.
FIMA also worked to protect the Cuervo River and Puelo Rivers from new hydroelectric schemes — Mediterráneo S.A.’s run-of-the-river project proposed on tributaries of the Puelo River and Energía Austral SpA’s three-dam power plant proposed on the Cuervo River.  
This month, communities cheered when the Chilean courts put a stop to plans for HidroAysen, and plans to dam the Cuervo and Puelo Rivers.
Congratulations to FIMA for years of good work protecting the fragile beauty of Patagonia!
For more information on the work of FIMA, visit their website.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator
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