Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chile's "Riders Against the Dams" close in on Aysen Capital

(Nov. 27, 2007) The Cabalgata Patagonia Sin Represas (Cavalcade for a Patagonia without Dams) closed in on the city of Coyhaique in its penultimate day Monday, setting up camp along the Río Simpson 12 kilometers outside the Region XI capital. The purpose of the horseback tour is to demonstrate the opposition of the local population to HydroAysén, a massive hydroelectric project that would entail the construction of five dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers.

The group was met along its route Monday by supporters who distributed copies of El Divisadero, a local paper, which featured news of the group’s progress. The cavalcade will arrive Tuesday in Coyhaique, where a massive demonstration against the dam project will be held.

The opposition to HydroAysén has attracted national and international attention to the region. On Wednesday members of the Environmental Commission of Chile’s chamber of deputies are scheduled to meet with leaders of the Cabalgata to discuss their concerns.

The campaign has also generated the support of prominent international environmental groups. Greenpeace and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have participated actively in the fight against HydroAysén for more than a year.

The involvement of these organizations has led to accusations that the campaign has been driven more by outside elements than local sentiment.* The idea of the Cabalgata was to directly confront this argument by highlighting opposition to the project in the region’s most remote locales – and among the people whom the dams would most directly affect.

“The cavalcade is a symbol of the region and its culture,” said Patricio Segura, who helped organize the event. “It’s a way to show the local face of the fight against this project.”

The large majority of the participants in the ride are natives of Aysén who have spent their entire lives in the region. They range in age from 11-year-old Romlo Lobillo to 88-year-old Cecilio Olivares, who first journeyed to Coyhaique on horseback in 1939.

“This might be my last fight, but I am doing it to defend my land,” said Olivares.

(*Endesa is owned by Italy's Enel and Spain's Acciona. Transelec, which will build powerline is owned by HydroQuebec. )

Here is the full article.