Chile’s HidroAysen Project, aka, Baker-Pascua Dam Project

The environmentalist groups  led by Patagonia Defense Council or PDC  Coalition  which includes International Rivers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and local citizens and community groups  had successfully blocked the construction of HidroAysen Project in Chile.  This development came about four months ago in June 2014.  Earthniversity considered this event, happening in that far-flung country in South America, as worth sharing  to our readers and followers.  We hope we can learn from the PDC’s experience.

According to Andrea Germanos, staff writer of Common Dreams,  the “HidroAysén project in the seismically active area would have included five dams on two rivers in Patagonia—the Baker and Pascua—and, according to International Rivers, would have resulted in the flooding of “nearly 15,000 acres of globally rare forest ecosystems and some of the most productive agricultural land in the area,” impacting wildlife and forcing the displacement of people.”

Germanos further stated that “the nation’s top administrative authority, the Council of Ministers, unanimously overturned the environmental permits issued in 2011 for the dams.”  Germanos also noted that Environment Minister Paul Badenier was quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Badenier said that  “A decision was taken to accept the community appeals and void the Environmental Qualification Resolution that approved HidroAysén; so the project is declared rejected by this administrative act.”

For a full account of the story written by Andrea Germanos of Common Dreams, please go to this link:

Campaigners at one of the rivers that would have been affected by the HidroAysen project. Middle banner reads: Patagonia without dams. (Photo Source – Massimo Lupo/cc/flickr as cited by Andrea Germanos, Staff Writer of Common Dreams.   Hereunder is the link:

In a related story, a team composed of Ham Kim, Ravi Manghani and Lauren Pappone of  the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University conducted a study on the Baker-Pascua Project, Patagaonia, Chile.  Here is the Abstract of that study.   (Source:  htt


By:  Han Kim, Ravi Manghani and Lauren Pappone

Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University  (November 2009)


The key issues in the water dispute are:

1.  The effects of the proposed hydropower project on communities proximal to and dependent on the Baker and Pascua Rivers and potential impacts on both river ecology and the surrounding area, including forest land through which new power lines would run.

2.  The Baker-Pascua Project is situated in Patagonia,Chile. The companies involved, the Chilean government, and some citizens see the rivers of southern Patagonia as a source of much-needed electricity (C).

3.  However, environmental groups, many local residents, and other citizens see the rivers as having an intrinsic value as wild rivers (V), as supporting diverse ecosystems (E), and as a source of food and tourism income for local communities.

4.  Stakeholders debate on the importance of the effects resulting from the change in the distribution of the rivers’ flows (Q) caused by this project. This conflict is driven primarily by economic considerations (C), because the project is motivated by Chile’s need to support its growing industries and economic development, and the involved companies’ desire for a profitable energy venture.

5.  We propose that a potential solution lies in government (G), which could use economic mechanisms(C) to incentivize other more sustainable options for generating electricity. However, such an approach has been difficult to implement due to the limitations of the current institutional structures.


For a thorough discussion on this study by Fletcher University team, please click the link below.

This map shows the location of Baker River and Pascua River.  (Source: Goggle Earth as cited by

Source:  Google Earth



The Patagonia Defense Council of Chile, exemplifies how a non-governmental organization who existed in a social setting where powerful groups of individuals and entities assert themselves to implement projects that they thought could bring unprecedented economic growth to the locality in particular and the country in general.

However, when the Environmental Impact Assessments of the project is considered, many issues have to be addressed and must be given a clear treatment on how it should be handled in order to minimize the negative impacts of the project to the environment, the people and stakeholders, the Biodiversity, etcetera and so on and so forth.

For me, PDC’s work on the Baker and Pascua Rivers Dam Project, also known as HidroAysen Project is a Model and a Best Practice that every environmentalist group existing in communities with similar situations as Patagonia’s Baker and Pascua Rivers should learn from.

The existing status of rejecting the dam project is not yet final as HidroAysen Project Officials might appeal the decision to the Environment Court or the Higher Court of Chile.  This was the observation of Luis Andres Henao of Associated Press, dated June 11, 2014.

If you feel that the  Patagonia Experience can be of help to your own local experience and to your LGU’s Environment and Sustainable Development strategies, you may also visit the website of International Rivers where additional information on the HidroAysen Project can be found.

Here is the link:

Finally, Earthniversity would like to thank our sources of information.  They are properly recognized in this write-up. Thank you.


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