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Decision due next week on Chile mega hydro scheme

The Chilean Supreme Court is due to make a decision on a controversial $7bn (£4.5bn) hydro project in Patagonia in the Southern part of the country next week.

The Supreme Court is due to make a ruling on whether the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the controversial scheme was legal. Chile’s government voted in favour of the project in May 2011, but the three-year long EIA has been challenged in the courts.

Project promoter HidroAysen - owned by Chilean utilities Endesa and Colbun - want to construct a series of five hydro-electric dams on the Baker River and Pascua rivers in Aysen, a remote region in Southern Patagonia. The rivers have a high water flow which is maintained by nearly constant rainfall and through the melting on the Andean Glaciers to the Pacific Ocean through green valleys and fjords.

If the Supreme Court does rule the EIA legal then the Chilean government is likely to give the final go-ahead to construction.

Controversial hydro scheme

HidroAysen’s plans to construct the five dams - two on the Baker river and three on the Pascua river – has been met with a lot of controversy.

Its promoters believe the 2.75GW scheme is essential to meeting Chile’s expanding energy needs.

But, its detractors say the scheme will have serious environmental impact on the region and along the 2000km transmission line transporting energy to the north of the country where it is required.

Unversity of Greenwich senior lecturer Alejandro Dussaillant-Jones - who has worked on the project - believes the three-year EIA is not enough to estimate the full impacts of damming the rivers.

He said the EIA did not address major questions about the scheme such as how the dams will effect sedimentation flowing into the southern pacific and how they take into account major flooding as a result of the melting glaciers.


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