Victory in Chile! Dams Scrapped on Five Rivers

Sarah Bardeen
Puelo River Basin
Puelo River Basin
Andres Amengual

We’re thrilled to share incredible news from Chile today. 

After a decades-long campaign, five rivers in Chile, some of them wild and scenic, have been saved from large hydroelectric dams. 

The Chilean energy company Endesa announced yesterday it has relinquished all claims to the water on the Futaleufú, Puelo, Chillan, Bardón and Huechún rivers. That means that six hydroelectric projects, totaling 2,151 MW, have been scrapped.

The win comes after a decades-long, coordinated effort from many groups working in partnership, including Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia (CDP), which includes International Rivers, Ecosistemas, Geute Fundacion Sur, Terram, Aysen Comité Nacional Pro Defensa de La Fauna y Flora and many others. These dams had met with strong local opposition, both because of their social and environmental impacts and the effect they would have on the tourism industry.

This is a landmark decision. In a statement, Endesa Chief Executive Valter Moro said, "Endesa Chile wants to only move forward on projects that are technically and economically viable and that are embraced by the local communities.” 

We commend Endesa for listening to the voices of the community and affected peoples. 

Many organizations and community members have fought for years to foreground the importance of river protection and the many drawbacks of large dams. Groups including CDP, Geute Fondacion, Ecosistemas and International Rivers, among others, have kept up concerted pressure for many years on the Chilean government and on Endesa to listen to the voices of affected community members who did not want these dams. 

This success would not have been possible without the win, in 2014, against the HidroAysen dams in Patagonia. That campaign helped raise the issue of river protection with the broader Chilean public, and galvanized Chilean support for protecting the country's precious natural resources. 

Monti Aguirre, International Rivers’ Latin America Campaign Coordinator, said, “Rivers provide drinking water, irrigation, fisheries and livelihoods for millions of people globally. We should protect them, and we need to do this in a way that is permanent and legal. Rivers have rights, and recently we've seen countries like New Zealand recognize this. In the United States, rivers have been protected since 1996 under the Wild and Scenic River Act. We welcome this great news, and we recognize that we must seize this opportunity to now secure permanent protection for the wild and scenic rivers of Patagonia.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016