Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chile Anti-Dam Campaign Surges Ahead

Doug Tompkins, Sara Larraín And Other Environmentalists Lambaste Aysén Project(October 5, 2007)

A veritable who’s who of Chile’s best-known environmentalists gathered atop Santiago’s Cerro Santa Lucia Thursday evening in a high-profile event to raise opposition against plans by Endesa, Colbún and other large companies to dam Chilean Patagonia’s glacier-fed rivers.

The gala gathering, which also attracted a handful of sympathetic politicians, served as a coming out party for the newly formed Chilean Patagonia Defense Council (CDCP). An umbrella organization made up of several dozen Chilean and international groups opposing dam construction in Patagonia, the CDCP represents the largest and most organized effort yet to prevent Spanish electricity giant Endesa and Chilean energy company Colbún from carrying out their so-called Aysén Project.

Slated for Region XI’s two largest rivers, the Baker and the Pascua, the US$4 billion Aysén Project calls for construction of five massive hydroelectric dams that would – if approved by government environmental authorities – generate an estimated 2,750 MW of electricity. The Project also calls for construction of a 2,000-km transmission line to transport the electricity from Region XI, an area also known as Aysén, to Chile’s energy-hungry central and northern regions.

“Why did we bring you all together? Simple. Because we need your help in providing a different future for Chilean Patagonia. A Patagonia that is free of dams and that’s able to use conservation as a basis for development,” CDCP Executive Secretary Patricio Rodrigo, an environmental consultant with the Santiago-based NGO Chile Sustentable, told a crowd of several hundred people.

Rodrigo was one of several speakers on hand to present a new book called “Patagonia Chilena: Sin Represas!” (Chilean Patagonia: Without Dams), which he co-edited with ecologist Juan Pablo Orrego, director of the environmental NGO Ecosistemas.

Featuring a collection of essays by authors such as U.S. “eco baron” Douglas Tompkins, Salmon magnate Hugo Puchi and Hernán Sandoval, a one-time advisor to ex-Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, the book offers a wide range of written and visual arguments against construction of the huge hydro project.

Several of the authors, including Sandoval and Tompkins, spoke at Thursday’s book launch. “Albert Einstein once said that infinite growth is the logic of cancerous cells. As usual, he was right,” said Tompkins, a U.S. multi-millionaire who made his fortune in the designer clothing industry and now owns a vast amount of protected territory in southern Chile.

“The projects planned for the Pascua and Baker Rivers represent a continuation of this logic of infinite growth. And the idea behind those projects by no means ends with those two rivers. The people promoting this kind of infinite growth have their eyes on 30 more rivers,” he added.

Here is the full article.

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