Piñera and the World Bank Support HidroAysén

Berklee Lowrey-Evans

As I get ready to head up to Nevada City, CA for screenings of Patagonia Rising at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival today, I can't help but reflect on the current state of the campaign to protect Patagonia from the HidroAysén dams and transmission lines.

The Supreme Court of Chile heard the case against HidroAysén on Friday December 23, 2011. A verdict is expected sometime this month, although the court could be sneaky and issue their ruling in February, when everyone in Chile is on vacation (think August in Europe and the US), and the likelihood of mass protests would be at its lowest. Once the court rules, the Council of Ministers will issue their opinion on the matter. Since this is a part of the new legislation from 2010, no one is quite sure what to expect from the Council of Ministers, and what kind of weight their opinion will have in the matter.

HidroAysén has pushed back the date for turning in the transmission line EIA yet again, now saying they will likely submit it in June of 2012.

President Piñera has taken the politically risky stance of strongly coming out in favor of HidroAysén. He also weakened his energy efficiency goals for Chile from 20% to 12% by 2020. Piñera stated his clear support for installing more dams - big and small - in Chile, especially in the Aysén region of Patagonia. While hydroelectricity currently accounts for 34% of Chile's energy, he hopes to increase this to 40-50% in 20 years, and says that developing hydroelectricity is a priority. Not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless.

In a further blow to the campaign to protect Patagonia from destructive big dams, the World Bank this week is greenwashing big hydro dams in Chile - and HidroAysén in particular - as part of the "solution" to Chile's need for more energy in a time of climate change. I guess the World Bank didn't get the memo that hydropower isn't as clean as they think . . .

And now I'm off to the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, where I'll see A River Runs Through Us - our short film on the international movement to protect rivers and communities from destructive big dams; Patagonia Rising - a feature-length documentary about the campaign to stop HidroAysén; and Los Escualos - a short film about a kayak school in Cochrane, Patagonia that is using kayaking to teach local youth about the beauty and importance of their Baker River. You can watch a shortened version of Los Escualos in English or Spanish.