Mediterraneo Hydroelectric plant and future exploitation plans of Puelo River, Chile

Puelo basin is being targeted by national study for its massive exploitation. Mediterraneo S.A and Endesa own water rights and will benefit from it. Read about opposition on the transboundary basin and proposal of alternatives


Description
Chilean and Spanish energy companies Endesa, Mediterráneo and Hydroaysén, are building dams in one on Chile's most precious environments.  One of the projects currently developed is the run-of-river Mediterráneo project in the Manso River, a tributary of River Puelo, with an investment of 400 million USD. The Mediterraneo Hydroelectric project is located in the Cochamó area, and aims to generate 210 MW and construct a 60-kin transmission line with 150-meter towers through a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In 2014 the project was granted an Environmental Qualification Resolution (RCA) without the required indigenous consultation or assessing risks to endemic endangered species such as the huemul, Darwin’s frog and the Chilean river otter. The granting of the RCA has been criticized for irregularities and influence peddling and is the subject of pending lawsuits as of July, 2016. The energy produced would be mainly meant for mining companies up in northern Chile, more than 2.000 kilometers in distance from Río Puelo, the main water source being tapped, while, ironically, the local community is amongst the highest payers in electricity bills. In spite of an ever-growing movement, the Chilean government insists in prioritizing corporate interests. Chile’s current Minister of Energy is finalizing a Watershed Mapping Study to prioritize hydro development in conflict watersheds. If implemented as policy, the study would facilitate construction of several large dams in the Puelo Watershed, as well as dams in at least six other major watersheds. In the Puelo watershed, Endesa is also a key player as it owns water rights and would benefit from the policy. Endesa is cutting down 200 hectares of southern native forest, to accomodate for energy distribution buildings and infrastructure, including more than 60 kilometers of high-voltage towers visible to the naked eye, irrupting a highly valued touristic scenery, natural wealth of many local families for generations. If the Minister of Energy is allowed to implement the study as national policy, it will make it easier for Endesa and Mediterraneo to build more dams in the Puelo watershed, particularly along the Puelo and Manso Rivers. The study has produced significant conflict in indigenous communities and the Comuna of Cochamo, which reject national efforts to sacrifice their rivers for hydropower. Nearly all of this power would be exported out of the watershed to supply industry in other parts of Chile and Argentina. Fuentes en Chile y Argentina declaran, "desde 2009 la comunidad organizada ha logrado levantar un frente de resistencia ante el silencio que ha rodeado el proyecto de Endesa en la zona cordillerana de la Región de Los Lagos. Esa articulación social chileno-argentina es el tema principal de la investigación de Eduardo Mondaca M., “Dimensión Sociopolítica de la Acción Colectiva en los Conflictos Ambientales. Análisis Critico sobre el Caso de Río Puelo”. El acoso a los campesinos y en especial a la comunidad indígena “Domingo Cayún Panicheo” se ha transformado en una constante. Esto se refleja en las palabras de doña Huberlinda, esposa del Lonko de la Comunidad. “Andan sacando información, dicen… ¿Y si usted vendiera su campo cuánto cobraría?… ¿Cómo yo le voy a decir? “demen 100 millones de pesos no más, son 100 hectáreas…me voy tranquila” ¿Y a dónde voy a ir? ¿A dar lástima a los pueblos? Cuando soy mujer de campo”. La organización Puelo Patagonia cuya principal batalla es “Puelo sin Torres”, informó sobre los perjuicios que provocaría la construcción de una central de este tipo en la zona. Los adversarios de Mediterráneo se oponen, principalmente, a los 61 kilómetros de tendido eléctrico: 203 torres, de 38 metros cada una, que atravesarían el estuario de Reloncaví, bordearían el río Puelo, la laguna Tagua Tagua, hasta llegar al río Manso. Este tendría efectos devastadores e irreversibles para el turismo y la economía de esta comuna, considerada uno de los enclaves prístinos del país. La cuenca binacional del Río Puelo tiene una superficie aproximada de 880.000 ha, de las cuales 300.000 ha se ubican en el lado Chileno, y 580.000 ha en el sector Argentino. En la parte argentina, la cuenca esta bajo un régimen de protección mediante el Parque Nacional Lago Puelo, con los valles del Río Azul y río Manso respectivamente por el gran aporte de caudal al Lago Puelo. Por otra parte, las 300.000 ha ubicadas en el sector chileno, corresponden a diversos sistemas hídricos. ENDESA proyecta construir una Represa llamada "El Porton" (habiéndose iniciado ya los trabajos) y la Cancilleria argentina mira hacia otro lado porque el 7,7% de los activos de ENDESA en Iberoamérica se encuentra en Argentina. Los vecinos de El Bolson y tambien los legisladores rionegrinos Ranea y Sartor, han protestado, rechazando la construcción de Represas Hidroeléctricas sobre el Rio Puelo y el Manso". En enero del 2014 la organización “Mujeres sin fronteras que agrupa a mujeres chilenas, argentinas y Mapuche realizó una cabalgata de cinco días, reinvindicando "queremos proteger el Puelo y El Manso, de las grandes corporaciones, que sólo quieren destrucción, es así como nace la idea de hacer una cabalgata, de mujeres y niños, para que las autoridades conozcan nuestra forma de vida, y sobre todo, que tenemos que proteger nuestro entorno, nuestros ríos".
Basic Data
NameMediterraneo Hydroelectric plant and future exploitation plans of Puelo River, Chile
CountryChile
ProvinceRegión de Los Lagos
SiteCochamó
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Water
Land
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Spanish energy company Endesa forsees the construction of an hydroelectric central, damning the Puelo River with a 100-meter-high wall, inundating 5.000 hectares.
See more...
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationover 4,000 at Mediterraneo plant, but over 320,000 along the basin
Start Date01/01/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesMediterráneo S.A. from Chile
Relevant government actorsDelegación de Aguas de Puerto Montt (Chile), Cancillería de Argentina, Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental (SEA) de la Región de Los Lagos (Chile)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersComunidad indígena “Domingo Cayún Panicheo”, organización Puelo Patagonia, vecinos de El Bolson y legisladores rionegrinos Ranea y Sartor, Agrupación Mujeres Sin Fronteras, GeoAustral; Puelo Sin Torres; International Rivers; Kayak Stewards Alliance; Ecosistemas
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingRecreational users
Farmers
Social movements
Fishermen
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Women
International ejos
Informal workers
Local tourism businesses
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Desertification/Drought, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Noise pollution, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Land dispossession, Displacement, Specific impacts on women, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Strengthening of participation
Preparing to implement study as national policy
Development of AlternativesProposals for Chile to move towards 100% renewable energies with no new hydro, submitted by the Mesa Ciudadana del Cambio Climatico (Chile), a coalition of over 20 NGOs; Proposals for Chile to establish Wild & Scenic Rivers Designation and permanently protect key waterways in at-risk watersheds, being developed by International Rivers (global) and several local Chilean NGOs and attorneys.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Sebastián Piñera, who in 2013 completed 4-year-term in office as president, hastily approved the project before his mandate had concluded.

There is strong opposition in Argentina and Chile.

The Watershed Mapping Study is being finalized and will be presented in September 2016. While the methodologies used in the study has created some conflict in the seven watersheds being prioritized for hydro development, the full outcome of the study will only be seen if it is allowed to become national energy policy.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Law No. 1122 of 29.10.1981. El Código de Aguas

Law 20017. Created a royalty or tax applicable to owners of non-consumptive and continuous water rights who fail to utilize the waters. Specifically, the tax applies when owners fail to build infrastructure works to capture and restitute the waters. Law 20,017 provides that if the taxes are not paid, the courts may order the public auction of the respective water rights.

Article 28 of Law 19300. Related with "Community Participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment Process" page. 13

Law 19300 or the Environmental Framework Law, provides the basis for the organisation of environmental laws in Chile. It establishes the regulatory framework for environmental activity in Chile such as the environmental impact assessment system (EIAS), liability for environmental damage, air and water quality and emission standards, and pollution prevention and decontamination plans, among others.

Links

Diario Andino, 2014, La Cancillería se involucrará en el avance de represa en el sur de Chile que afectará al Manso
[click to view]

El Ciudadano, 2013, Endesa reactiva proyecto de central hidroeléctrica en Puelo
[click to view]

Bolson, 2007, Patagonia: Chubut, Rio Negro, Chile: Impactos generales de la represa El Porton en la cuenca del Rio Puelo
[click to view]

Geoaustral, 2013, ENDESA reactiva proyecto de central hidroeléctrica en Rio Puelo
[click to view]

El Ciudadano, 2011, Resistencia chileno-argentina devela secretismo de Endesa en Río Puelo
[click to view]

Qué pasa, 2013, Tensión en Puelo
[click to view]

Bolson, 2010, Sobre la probable represa ENDESA en Rio Puelo: Negocios en Argentina
[click to view]

El Ciudadano, 2012, Proyecto ‘Central de pasada Mediterráneo’ agita las aguas y los ánimos en Cochamó
[click to view]

Ong Vinculos, 2011, Nota a Cancillería Argentina por represa Rio Puelo
[click to view]

Elperroposteador, 2014, Mujeres sin Fronteras realizarán cabalgata en contra de las represas de Endesa en Chile
[click to view]

El Quinto poder, 2012, Por un río Puelo libre y sin represas
[click to view]

International Rivers - Dam the Puelo River Basin? No Way! - International Rivers
[click to view]

Women Without Borders, Patagonia Without Dams - EcoWatch
[click to view]

Central de Pasada Mediterraneo - Official project website
[click to view]

Media Links

Video testimonials of local habitants.
[click to view]

Río Puelo - "Puelo Sin Represas"
Fuente: La Vaguada
[click to view]

Three Chilean celebrities visit Puelo to call for a Puelo Without Transmission Towers
[click to view]

Other Documents

Women Without Borders March, 2014 50 Women Representing Chile, Argentina and indigenous Mapuche communities marched together over five days to protect hydro development in the bi-national Puelo watershed.
[click to view]

Women Without Borders March, 2014 50 Women Representing Chile, Argentina and indigenous Mapuche communities marched together over five days to protect hydro development in the bi-national Puelo watershed.
[click to view]

Other CommentsThis is a local, regional, national and global conflict. Several watersheds in Chile are threatened by the same Watershed Mapping Study. These are rivers that deserve protected status, and it is expected that conflicts in Chile surrounding water rights will continue indefinitely until the country establishes new wild & scenic rivers legislation. Please review the map for information on the other watersheds at risk should the study become energy policy.

According to Kayakstewards organization, "Mediterraneo is owned by the company Inversiones Renta Los Andes, owners of Belfi construction company, whose partners are Ricardo Bachelet, close cousin of President Michele Bachelet; José Cox, partner and friend of former President Sebastian Piñera; and Roberto Hageman, a businessman directly and indirectly linked to mining projects in Chile. ES: El proyecto Mediterráneo está a cargo de la empresa Inversiones Renta Los Andes, dueños de la constructora Belfi, tiene como socios a Ricardo Bachelet, primo hermano de la presidenta Michelle Bachelet; José Cox socio y amigo del ex presidente Sebastián Piñera y Roberto Hageman, empresario ligado directa e indirectamente a proyectos mineros."
Meta Information
ContributorP.L., Director, Futaleufu Riverkeeper, [email protected] and Antonio Albagli, collaborator
Last update26/07/2016
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