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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


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.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mediterraneo Hydroelectric plant and future exploitation plans of Puelo River, Chile
State or province:Región de Los Lagos
Location of conflict:Cochamó
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
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities: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.

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:over 4,000 at Mediterraneo plant, but over 320,000 along the basin
Start of the conflict:01/01/2009
Company names or state enterprises:Mediterráneo S.A. from Chile
Relevant government actors:Delegación de Aguas de Puerto Montt (Chile), Cancillería de Argentina, Servicio de Evaluación Ambiental (SEA) de la Región de Los Lagos (Chile)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Comunidad 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
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
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
Local tourism businesses
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic 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 of the project
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-economical 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
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Strengthening of participation
Preparing to implement study as national policy
Development of alternatives:Proposals 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Law No. 1122 of 29.10.1981. El Código de Aguas

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.

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.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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]

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]

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

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

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

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

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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]

Video testimonials of local habitants.
[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 comments:This 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
Contributor:P.L., Director, Futaleufu Riverkeeper, [email protected] and Antonio Albagli, collaborator
Last update26/07/2016
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