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Chile’s Hidroaysen threaten animal species, says CBI report

Santiago Times
October 27, 2008

The controversial HidroAysén hydroelectric dam project proposed for southern Chile’s Patagonia will put numerous native species at risk, according to a report by the Oregon-based Conservation Biology Institute (CBI). Threatened species include salmon on the Baker River, the torrent duck and Chile’s emblematic huemul deer.

HidroAysén – an energy company formed in 2006 by Spanish-Italian electricity giant Endesa and Colbún, a Chilean utility – plans to build five massive hydroelectric dams in far southern Chile’s Region XI (an area of northern Patagonia also known as Aysén) if given a green light by Chilean environmental authorities (ST, Oct. 12).

HidroAysén’s impact will be enormous, said Aaron Sanger, the Patagonia coordinator of the International Rivers NGO.

Sanger said that the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) HidroAysén submitted to Chile’s environmental authorities earlier this year took a very limited area into account, but that the environmental impact of the five dams will far transcend the immediate area around the dams.. “It will eliminate or vastly reduce some species, many of which are already in danger,” said Sanger, citing the CBI study.

Sanger arrives in Chile today (Monday) to participate in a meeting with the Patagonia Defense Council (CDP) and Chilean and North American members of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The CBI study is one of many the CDP is expected to use in its questioning of HidroAysén’s long-term impact on Chile.

As part of a diversified, global strategy against the HidroAysén project, International Rivers is working to undercut the business position of one of the HidroAysén principals – Colbún. Colbún is owned by the Matte group, which also owns one of Chile’s most important forestry products businesses, CMPC.

“We have had more than a thousand clients of Home Depot write the company pledging not to buy Home Depot products unless the company uses its influence to halt HidroAysén’s construction,” said Sanger.

By Matt Dillinger (

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