Patagonia Dams

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Background

Chile’s environmentally fragile and unique Patagonia region is one of the world’s last areas of wilderness to have remained largely untouched by the ravaging development of modern industry. Because of a proposed plan to build five large hydroelectric dams on Patagonian rivers that would also require building the world’s longest power transmission corridor to connect the dams to Chile’s power markets in the north, the region’s delicate ecology is facing a very serious threat.

Construction of the dams alone would flood some 5,000 hectares of rare temperate and cold rainforest, threatening the habitats of several highly endangered species and requiring the forced expropriation of private homes and businesses. In addition, the several thousand high-voltage transmission towers that would need to be built along with the dams would require the clear-cutting of vast swaths of untouched biodiverse temperate forests with unique tree species.

An environmental assessment of the project claimed that the environmental problems caused by the dams can be addressed, though a group of 30 official bodies such as Chile’s National Energy Commission and National Water Directorate have decried the study’s inadequate analysis and noticeable absence of key data. Some 50 environmental organizations have renounced the study as a “sham” and a “fraud.”

The Canada Pension Plan (CPP), to which all Canadians must contribute for their old age, recently became co-owner of Transelec, Chile’s electricity transmission company that would construct the proposed power corridor, making some 17 million Canadians involuntary investors in this controversial scheme.

Chileans strongly oppose the project, but without access to private property rights or public control over water resources, the people of Patagonia lack sufficient recourse to stop it from proceeding.

The Patagonian people deserve better than an environmentally and economically risky plan to generate power that doesn’t jeopardise the future of their home’s natural beauty; especially when such a plan is being financed with Canadian taxpayer dollars.

Probe International is working to ensure that this mega-dam, long distance, high voltage transmission corridor scheme is replaced with more readily available, competitive and environmentally sound power sources.

For more information on this issue, consult the following:

Visit the websites of the Transelec owners

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