Chile rejects hydro-electric project in Patagonia

James, a current Green Spacer, shares his thoughts on the news of Chile rejecting the hydro-electric project in Patagonia:

About two and a half years ago I was given the opportunity to go the adventure of a lifetime, three months of sea kayaking, hiking, and mountaineering in southern Patagonia, Chile. Myself along with 15 other students and five instructors set out on January 31st, 2012 from a small fishing town located at the mouth of the Baker River, named Tortel.

The Baker River is not only Chile’s largest river but it is also one of two rivers that are the proposed sites for a major hydroelectric damming project. HidroAsyen would run this massive five dam project, which is controlled by the international energy giant Endesa. The project would produce 2,750 megawatts of energy and would use 1,500-mile transmission line to transfer the power to mines in Northern Chile. These major dams and transmission lines however, would do irreversible damage to one of the wildest and most ecologically diverse places remaining on earth. The current plans would cause flooding of the region’s farms and pastures, while displacing many families; the transmission lines would cut through 64 communities and 14 protected areas.

The citizens of Southern Chile however had no plans of standing by idly and watching the beautiful land they love be destroyed. Working together local residents, gaucho’s, and The Council for the Defense of Patagonia, a coalition of more then 70 conservations organizations, fought back. Using billboards, full-page ads, radio and TV spots, and online updates the movement, “Patagonia Chilena ¡Sin Represas!” gained momentum.

After fighting for over six year it is with great pleasure to find out that this past week Chile’s government voted to reject the HidroAsyen damming project. This is an enormous victory for environmentalist, the citizens of the Patagonia region and myself. My time in Patagonia had a prolific change on my life; everyday since I left I feared that one day it would be destroyed and I would never again be able to visit the same place I left. Today however I can sigh in relief knowing that this majestic, mystical place will still be thriving with wild life and traditional Chilean culture when I return.