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Hidroaysén hydroelectric project, Chile

Hydroaysen dam project was finally cancelled by the Chilean governement on 10th June 2014, after 8 years of the campaign under the slogan "Patagonia Sin Represas"


In 2005 Endesa Chile S.A. announced a huge plan for energy generation where five large dams would have been built along the Baker and Pascua rivers in the Aysén Region, in the Chilean Patagonia. The project envisaged the flooding of about 6,000 ha of land and was controlled by the consortium Hidroaysén, owned by Endesa (since 2009 a subsidiary of Italian conglomerate ENEL), with a 51% stake and by Colbún S.A. which owns the other 49%. If completed, the companies would have owned 80% of the Chilean electricity market.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hidroaysén hydroelectric project, Chile
State or province:Provincia de Capitan Prat, Región de Aysén
Location of conflict:Cochrane
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Five hydroelectric plants. All together would have a capacity of 2,750 MW (production of 18,400 GWh/year).

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Project area:6,000
Level of Investment:3,200,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:90000
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:Transelec
China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corp. from China
HidroAysen from Chile
Colbun from Chile
ENEL Group (Enel) from Italy
Naturgy (Naturgy) from Spain - Since 2009, Endesa has been bought by the Italian company ENEL. In Hidroaysén, Enel-Endesa own 51% of the project.
Relevant government actors:SEC (Superintendencia de Electricidad y Combustibles), SIC (Sistema Interconectado Central), CONAMA (Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente), Government of Chile, CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal)
International and Finance InstitutionsBrookfield Asset Management from Canada
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Patagonia sin Represas, Fundación Futuro Aysén, Greenpeace, Ecosistemas O.N.G., OLCA, International Rivers, Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia, Coalition of Citizens for Aysen Life Reserve, Defenders of the Patagonia Spirit, The community of Villa O'Higgins, Council of Canadians, Re:Common (ex Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale-CRBM)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
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
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
The Council of Canadians launched a campaign aimed at stopping Canadian pension funds from destroying Patagonia Re:Common with Fondazione Banca Etica started financial activism in order to take part to the ENEL shareholders assembly with representatives of concerned communities for denouncing the impacts of Hidroaysén.
Lots of concerts and music/artistic events have been organized in support of the campaign.
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Air pollution
Other Environmental impactsAll impacts are potential as works never started
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Other Health impactsAll impacts are potential as works never started
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsCorruption has been alleged (some decision-makers are shareholders of Endesa, for instance)
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Patagonia Sin Represas has always advocate for a systemic change in the energy production model in Chile. Non-conventional sources of energy (Energías Renovables No convencionales - ERNC) are one of the possible way out towards a real transition. This will also entail a reduction in consumption from the demand side, getting rid of a purely extractivist economy and the colonial past.
Chilean economy should gradually shift towards the third sector and invest more and more in education and service.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:After 8 years of the campaign under the slogan Patagonia Sin Represas, the Bachelet government in Chile rejected the Hidroaysén project on 10th June 2014. Members of Patagonia Sin Represas in Chile and abroad have welcomed the announcement with great joy and well aware that this is the first step of a hill-up road towards a paradigm shift.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Decree Law 654

Code of Responsible Conduct. Promoted by the Chilean Government to regulate public and private investment in indigenous areas has already drawn resistance

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.
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Law No. 1122 of 29.10.1981. El Código de Aguas
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Article 28 of Law 19300. Related with "Community Participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment Process" page. 13
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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.
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References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Conflictos Ambientales en Chile. San Martín Saavedra, Pablo. Olca. 1997

Represas. La lucha contra los Modernos Dinosaurs. World Rainforest Movement. 2003

Conflictos Ambientales: una oportunidad para la Democracia. Padilla, Cesar, San Martin, Pablo. Ed. Olca - IEP. 1995

La Entropia del Capitalismo, JP Orrego
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Patagonia sin represas, 2010, Representantes De La Campaña Irrumpen en la junta de Enel en Italia contra HidroAysén
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CNN, Chile
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Latin Layer, Environment - Chile
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La Tercera, 2010, Colbún: Construcción de Hidroaysén podría comenzar a fines de 2012
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Ecosistemas, 2014, Senadores y dirigentes de Patagonia sin Represas: Solicitan rechazo de HidroAysén a Ministro Badenier
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The Council of Canadians, 2011, Canadian pension funds quietly profit from destruction and oppression in Chile
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Library of Congress, Legislation on Use of Water in Agriculture: Chile
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Senators Girardi and Horvath against the project
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Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos (INDH), Hidroaysén
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News in 2014 from bishop of Aysen, Luis Infanti
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Agredecimientos a todos los miembros de PSR y activistas por Ecosistemas
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Senators De Urresti and Girardi against the project
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El desconcierto; Política energético-ambiental del ¿nuevo ciclo?
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Ecosistemas, 2014, HidroAysén decide aplazar proyecto hasta el próximo año
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Decision adjourned by government of Chile in June 2014
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (4/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (1/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (2/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

[click to view]

Lucciole per Lanterne, by Stefano e Mario Martone
[click to view]

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (5/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

[click to view]

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (3/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lucie Greyl and Daniela Del Bene
Last update18/08/2019
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