Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chaiten - Futaleufu Road to cut through Parque Pumalin - Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted today - Project to be debated by CONAMA

(Nov. 29, 2007) The Ministry of Transportation and Public Works (MOP) submitted Tuesday an Environmental Impact Study (EIA) for the construction of a new road within Pumalín Park—a private nature reserve in Region X developed by U.S. philanthropist and ecologist Douglas Tompkins. The proposal will now be debated by the Chile’s National Environmental Commission (CONAMA).

Tompkins expressed indignation about the project, calling the road unnecessary and potentially harmful to the fragile ecosystem of the park.

“It is unconscionable that [Public Works Minister} Bitrán is conducting totally out-of-control ministry with regards to the road they are building in the South,” said Tompkins. “I don't think they have any idea about the needs of the people, the impacts the road will have, the disasters it will leave in its wake, and the money wasted.” He claims that access to the region is already available via a coastal road along the Huequi Peninsula.

The new road was first proposed in May and would be an extension of the existing southern highway that cuts through the park (ST, May 27). It would connect the towns of Termas del Amarillo and Futaleufú, the latter of which has become a tourist hub within the past few years. Construction by the Military Work Corps is expected to take 10 years and cost US$40 million.

Proponents of the new project include officials of both towns as well as tourism companies in the region. Mayor of Futaleufú, Arturo Carvallo, expressed satisfaction that his town will finally have more direct access to Puerto Montt, the capital of the region.

The scenic road will include four look-out stops along the edge of Lake Espolón. The region already receives 22,000 tourists annually, and the new road is expected to increase that number by 25 percent.

Pumalin Park is rich in biodiversity, including populations of several endangered species such as the condor, pudú (the world's smallest deer), and the ranita de Darwin, a species of frog. There are also rare old-growth forests of coihue and lenga trees, as well as 11 varieties of fern.

Here is the full article.