Saturday, October 13, 2007

International Campaign for a Dam-Free Patagonia

SANTIAGO, Oct 10 (IPS) - "Patagonia is THE symbol of nature in the world," says U.S. lawyer Aaron Sanger, who is leading an international campaign against Hidroaysén, a joint venture that is planning to build five huge hydroelectric stations in the south of Chile.

Sanger, who lives in Washington, was hired by the U.S.-based International Rivers Network (IRN) to lead a campaign against Chilean export products "like copper, timber and fruit," that in its view are directly associated with the electricity supplied by Hidroaysén.

The IRN is part of the Chilean Patagonia Defence Council (CDP), a collective of 35 local and international environmental, civic, business and religious organisations, to which artists, academics and politicians also belong.

"The international campaign is a tool to make buyers of Chilean products aware of the connections between these goods and Hidroaysén," but the campaign’s actions have not yet been precisely determined, Sanger said at a meeting with a select group of foreign correspondents on Tuesday.

The mining companies that extract copper, Chile’s main export product, have the most to gain from the 2,750 megawatts to be generated by the five dams on the swift-flowing Baker and Pascua rivers in the Aysén region of Chile, 2,000 kilometres south of the capital, said the lawyer.

Hidroaysén is the result of a partnership established in 2006 between energy companies Endesa Chile, owned by the Spanish firm Endesa, and Colbún, controlled by the Chilean Matte Group. They plan to invest more than four billion dollars in the project.

Endesa owns 51 percent of the shares of Hidroaysén, which will flood 5,910 hectares of pristine wilderness to transmit electricity to Santiago along 2,200 kilometres of power lines running through eight regions in the south and centre of the country.

If the project goes ahead, it will be "the largest clear-cut area in the world," said Sanger.

Here is the full article.