One of the greatest dangers to the future of the Futaleufú valley is the prospect of largescale hydroelectric generation, which would forever alter the landscape. A multinational hydroelectric corporation, Endesa, essentially owns the Futaleufú River. The Campaign for a Patagonia Without Dams (Patagonia Sin Represas) has stated: “Endesa owns total river flow, with water rights equivalent to 1,225 m3/s, with which they plan to build three power plants: Los Coihues of 440 MW, Espolon of 65 MW, and La Cuesta of 910 MW.”
In May 2011, Endesa listed the Futaleufú as one of 17 projects it was working to develop in Chile. The dams would constitute the second-largest hydro project in Chilean Patagonia. In December 2012, Endesa’s Regional Planning Executive Sebastián Fernández revealed the multinational’s plans to continue developing projects in Chilean Patagonia, including the dams on the Futaleufú. Fernández’ statements, planted in Chile’s Diario Financiero, were designed to improve investor confidence in the company’s ability to develop these projects. Together the three dams on the Fu would destroy much of the region’s current economy and reverse its status as a worldclass tourist destination.
Demand for hydroelectricity comes directly from the explosive growth of Chile’s mining sector, which is eager to enter the region once a reliable source of electricity is established. Largescale electric generation in Patagonia is not only environmentally destructive on its own, it therefore also paves the way for largescale mining.
Chileans have made it clear they do not want Patagonia’s rivers destroyed, but so far their calls for protection have not been enough to stop government approval of these projects. Endesa and their partners are aggressive in their pursuit of profits, and only a sophisticated and equally aggressive response can stop them in their tracks.
The Fu can still be protected, but time is of the essence. We plan to represent communities in opposing hydroelectric development through litigation, regulatory analysis, scientific research, policymaking, and community education. It is essential to protect our natural resources and the people who are defenseless and vulnerable when their livelihoods are taken away. The people of Futaleufú have the right to fight corporations that will destroy their culture and identity, undermining their dignity as human beings and bringing environmental, social and economic poverty to the region.
For the latest news on hydro development in the Futaleufú watershed, click here.