Though power-strapped, Chileans reject massive dam project in Patagonia

It would have tamed two of the world’s wildest rivers and built more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of power lines to supply energy to central Chile. Environmentalists celebrated the government’s decision to protect a pristine area of Andean glaciers and green valleys and fjords. Most Chileans also oppose HidroAysen and thousands have protested against the project.

[The decision is] the greatest triumph of the environmental movement in Chile.

Patricio Rodrigo, Patagonia Defence Council executive secretary

After a three-hour meeting, Chile’s ministers of agriculture, energy, mining, economy and health voted unanimously to reject the HidroAysen project. The committee “decided to side with complaints presented by the community,” Environment Minister Pablo Badenier told reporters. “As of now, the hydroelectric project has been rejected.” The project would have built five dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers in Aysen, a mostly roadless region of southern Patagonia where rainfall is nearly constant and rivers plunge from Andean glaciers to the Pacific Ocean through green valleys and fjords. Chile is strapped for energy, but most Chileans opposed HidroAysen, and protests against it at times turned violent.

[It] marks a turning point, where an empowered public demands to be heard and to participate in the decisions that affect their environment and their lives.

Patricio Rodrigo