All winter Americans were kept healthy from the fabulous fruits and vegetables from Chile. It is amazing that such a small country could be so organized in its farming industry that most of the best produce supplied to the world comes from there. It is also a pristine country with areas of breathtaking glaciers and lakes so popular with tourists as in the region of Aysen.
So, why not ruin it by planning to put a hydroelectric dam in the middle of the natural beauty against the voting public’s interest. Well, the government approved such a plan and the citizens are angry. The kind gentle people of Chile about 30,000 recently marched through Santiago the capital to protest. Not angry men raping and looting but young women and children and families took over the streets around the capital building.
Other protests took place in several more Chilean cities. It has become a surprising national movement, organizers have mounted large protests for several weeks since a government environmental commission in May approved the $3.2 billion Hidro Aysen dam complex in a pristine region of Patagonia. President Sebastian Pinera’s approval rating fell to 35% in April over the issue.
New power plans usually come with voter approval since greater power usually keeps most people happy, not in this case. While the government supports expanding hydroelectric power production, more than 60% of Chileans are against it according to polls. The people of the area where the dam is to be built consider the land to be a national treasure.
HidroAysen is an extremely tense subject in Chile because the country more than Argentina is struggling to secure energy supplies to keep up with its economic growth. Chile will need to double its electric capacity generation over the next 10 to 15 years according to government officials. The country has little oil or natural gas of its own.
This planned complex of five dams on two rivers would produce about 35% of the countries consumption. It would also flood a large part of a region dominated by national parks and reserves. Must the world ruin its natural beauty and fill it with energy complexes like dams and power plants?
Those opposing the dams say the government should focus on improving energy efficiency and boosting capacity for non-conventional renewal fuels like wind, solar and geothermal power. They also believe that in 5-10 years solar options will be cheaper than the dams.
The government has been airing commercials on television to scare people by showing a doctor operating on a patient and the lights go out during the operation. They boast that the dams would flood about 14,600 acres making it the most “efficient dam project in the world”.
“For us Chileans, natural resources are the most precious thing we have,” said Victor Cesped, a 21 year old student at the university of Chile “The land is a source of pride.”