Patagonia’s rivers are under attack! A consortium of European and Chilean mega-companies seeks to place a total of five dams blocking the rivers that are the lifeblood in the heart of this diversely rich region. Two of the dams are slated for the Baker, Chile’s longest and highest flowing river. The other three would be built along the Pascua, Chile’s third highest flowing river. Both rivers serve critical ecological functions that would be lost forever as a result of damming.
The damage and destruction from such a project would not stop at the rivers. There are plans to clear-cut at least 1,600 km (1000 mi) of pristine old-growth forest in order to build the longest transmission line in the world. Over 2,450 km (1,500 mi) of line would be built to transport the electricity northward to support population centers and, ultimately Chile’s massive mining industry. Together, the dams and transmission lines would damage communities, scar the landscape, and wreak havoc on ecosystems. Additionally, these projects would hasten the extinction of species such as the torrent duck, the Chilean river otter, and the endangered Chilean deer, the huemul, which is on the Chilean coat of arms.
Chilean Patagonia is a remote region of the world where nature, long left to its own devices grows wild, beautiful and largely untouched by man. As South America’s last frontier, the region boasts incredible biodiversity, breathtaking landscapes, essential ecological values, and a remote solitude that is increasingly rare in our burgeoning world. Dappled with pristine lakes, jagged peaks, ancient glaciers, rushing rivers, coastal rainforests and dry grasslands, the area’s diversity is striking and its magnificence unmatched.
This ill-conceived project has already generated a formidable backlash, compelling activists from across the country and the world to launch a powerful environmental campaign. A coalition of Chilean and U.S organizations and individuals has been working diligently to protect the area not only by fighting the dams, but also by demanding the adoption of a sound and sustainable energy policy by the government. This movement has no doubt been urged forward by the words of renowned activist and philanthropist Doug Tompkins: “There is an epic environmental fight here. The biggest one that Chile’s ever seen.”
We would like to join the fight for these wild lands and the people who depend on them. As such, we propose to bring a team of talented individuals, including a photographer, an author, cinematographers, local river guides, Chilean journalists and conservationists on a trip down the Baker. This power-packed team of experts will work together to give this threatened area a voice by documenting this incredible natural resource in its pristine state and by highlighting what the area means to the people, plants, and wildlife that make up its ecosystem. We will also use this opportunity to illustrate how this mega-hydroelectric scheme would forever change the face and character of the area and therefore, why it needs to be prevented. The team will create compelling photos, written articles and a documentary film that will convey the beauty, unique quality and ecological importance of the rivers and the surrounding lands. These pieces will delve into the current conflict and the immediate threats facing the people and lands of the Aysén Region.
The intent of this project is to raise global awareness that will garner further support for the existing campaign and will incite people to action at a local, national and international level, thereby increasing the pressure on the hydroelectric companies and the government to protect these important areas.