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
NameHidroaysén hydroelectric project, Chile
ProvinceProvincia de Capitan Prat, Región de Aysén
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsFive hydroelectric plants. All together would have a capacity of 2,750 MW (production of 18,400 GWh/year).

The installation of more than 2,000 km of cabling and the construction of 6,000 pylons ranging in height from 50 to 70 metres.

Hidroaysen claims to have spent 300 million USD until 2014, the total busget is said to be 3.2 billion USD.
Project Area (in hectares)6,000
Level of Investment (in USD)3,200,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population90000
Start Date2005
Company Names or State EnterprisesTranselec
China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corp. from China
HidroAysen from Chile
Colbun from Chile
ENEL Group (Enel) from Italy
Endesa (Endesa) from Spain - Since 2009, Endesa has been bought by the Italian company ENEL. In Hidroaysén, Enel-Endesa own 51% of the project.
Relevant government actorsSEC (Superintendencia de Electricidad y Combustibles), SIC (Sistema Interconectado Central), CONAMA (Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente), Government of Chile, CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal)
International and Financial InstitutionsBrookfield Asset Management from Canada
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPatagonia 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)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingSocial movements
Informal workers
Local ejos
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local government/political parties
Religious groups
Recreational users
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Fisher people
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Shareholder/financial activism.
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
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.
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
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
OtherAll impacts are potential as works never started
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
OtherAll impacts are potential as works never started
Socio-economic 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
OtherCorruption has been alleged (some decision-makers are shareholders of Endesa, for instance)
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesPatagonia 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 as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

Decree Law 654

Law No. 1122 of 29.10.1981. El Código de Aguas
[click to view]

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

Article 28 of Law 19300. Related with "Community Participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment Process" page. 13
[click to view]

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.
[click to view]

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.
[click to view]


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
[click to view]


Patagonia sin represas, 2010, Representantes De La Campaña Irrumpen en la junta de Enel en Italia contra HidroAysén
[click to view]

CNN, Chile
[click to view]

Ecosistemas, 2014, HidroAysén decide aplazar proyecto hasta el próximo año
[click to view]

The Council of Canadians, 2011, Canadian pension funds quietly profit from destruction and oppression in Chile
[click to view]

Library of Congress, Legislation on Use of Water in Agriculture: Chile
[click to view]

Latin Layer, Environment - Chile
[click to view]

La Tercera, 2010, Colbún: Construcción de Hidroaysén podría comenzar a fines de 2012
[click to view]

Ecosistemas, 2014, Senadores y dirigentes de Patagonia sin Represas: Solicitan rechazo de HidroAysén a Ministro Badenier
[click to view]

Decision adjourned by government of Chile in June 2014
[click to view]

News in 2014 from bishop of Aysen, Luis Infanti
[click to view]

Senators Girardi and Horvath against the project
[click to view]

Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos (INDH), Hidroaysén
[click to view]

El desconcierto; Política energético-ambiental del ¿nuevo ciclo?
[click to view]

Agredecimientos a todos los miembros de PSR y activistas por Ecosistemas
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Senators De Urresti and Girardi against the project
[click to view]

Media Links

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (2/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

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]

[click to view]

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (3/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

Documental: Patagonia Chilena Sin Represas (5/5)

Marcelo Viñas (biólogo y documentalista)

[click to view]

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

[click to view]

Other Documents

Mobilization against the Hydroaysen dam project semancha.com
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl and Daniela Del Bene
Last update29/12/2015