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HidroAysén Cancelled: Chile Rejects Environmental Approval

Chile’s Committee of Ministers, the country’s highest administrative authority, today cancelled the environmental permits for five controversial dams proposed on two of Chilean Patagonia’s wildest rivers, the culmination of an eight-year battle.

 “This is the right move and an important step toward putting Chile on track toward a sustainable, clean energy future,” said Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Project Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Patagonia’s rugged and varied wilderness is truly an environmental treasure. These giant dams would have put at risk the wilderness, traditional culture, and local tourism economy of this remarkable region. The country’s future energy needs are better served by building truly sustainable energy: renewables and energy efficiency.”

Chile’s Patagonia region is one of the world’s last vast expanses of wilderness and the HidroAysén project has been the center of an eight-year environmental campaign waged by the Patagonia Defense Council (PDC), a coalition of nearly seventy Chilean and international organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and International Rivers. They hailed the decision to cancel the massive hydroelectric scheme as a landmark for the country.

The Committee of Ministers overturned environmental permits for the dams that were originally granted in 2011 under an evaluation process full of procedural irregularities and charges of misconduct. “This decision is in line with what we’ve always said: HidroAysén’s impacts could not be mitigated, and in fact could not be evaluated.” explained Juan Pablo Orrego, International Coordinator of the Patagonia Defense Council.  

According to Patricio Rodrigo, Executive Secretary of the PDC, “The government’s definitive rejection of the HidroAysén project is not only the greatest triumph of the environmental movement in Chile, but 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.”

By ruling against HidroAysén, the government sided with the majority of Chileans, and tens of thousands of people around the world, who believe that large dams should not be built in Chile’s Patagonia, and are incompatible with the idea of sustainable development for the region. “This is a tremendous victory for citizens”, notes Patricio Segura of CODESA, a local NGO in Patagonia, “This is one more fundamental step in protecting Patagonia and building a fairer and more sustainable Chile that protects our natural legacy for future generations.”

"When the people demand a full accounting of the costs and benefits of a big dam scheme, we consistently find that projects like HidroAsyén are not economically viable.” said Monti Aguirre, Latin America Coordinator at International Rivers. “The Chilean river movement is galvanized and now is the time to seek more permanent protection for the uniquely wild rivers of Patagonia.”

For more information:

Amanda Maxwell’s blog: A Major Victory in Patagonia: Chilean Government Overturns HidroAysén’s Approval http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amaxwell/a_major_victory_in_patagonia_c.html

International Rivers blog: Chao HidroAysén http://www.internationalrivers.org/node/8339

See NRDC’s page on Clean Energy in Chile: http://www.nrdc.org/international/chile-LCOE.asp

The following experts from the Patagonia Defense Council [Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia (CDP)], Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and International Rivers are available for comment in English or Spanish.

  • Monti Aguirre, Latin America Coordinator at International Rivers
    monti@internationalrivers.org, +1 707 591 1220 (Berkeley, California, USA)
  • Carolina Herrera, Latin America Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
    cherrera@nrdc.org, +1 202 289 2381 (Washington D.C., USA)
  • Juan Pablo Orrego, International Coordinator of the Patagonia Defense Council
    jp.orrego@ecosistemas.cl, +56 (9) 9349 9236 (Santiago, Chile)
  • Patricio Segura, La Corporación de Desarrollo de Aysén (CODESA) 
    psegura@gmail.com, + 56 (9) 9969 9780 (Coyhaique, Chile)

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


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