Patagonia, Chile

Excerpted from “Action Alert – Don’t Dam Patagonia”
by Rick Ridgeway and Lisa Pike,
Patagonia Environmental Affairs,
www.patagonia.com

Patagonia: It truly is one of the world’s last unspoiled natural treasures – wild, vast and rich in its unique attributes and biodiversity.

As we write to you, an environmental study is undergoing review in Chile for a massive hydroelectric project that would dam two of Patagonia’s wild and pristine rivers, the Baker and the Pascua. The Baker River is the largest remaining wild river in Chile and runs right along the edge of the proposed 650,000-acre Patagonia National Park that we are helping to create. Damming the Baker would flood portions of this new park and hobble tourism that has just begun to bring new sources of income to the area’s small, traditional communities. The Pascua River is today a virtually untouched haven for wildlife that would, if dammed, be almost totally destroyed. Just as damaging, a 2,450-km chain of huge power-line towers is being proposed to transmit electricity to the north. The effects of this project would permanently blemish and scar an enormous swath of the spectacular Patagonia region.

Less destructive alternative energy sources are available. And the Chilean government has recently become fully aware of the significant tourism revenue opportunities that would be lost if plans for the dams and transmission lines move forward.

Despite this knowledge, and the numerous (though vastly understated) environmental impacts of the project disclosed in the dam company HidroAysen’s study just now undergoing review, the Chilean government has all but pre-approved the project. So we’ve partnered with International Rivers (IR) to illustrate another potential loss to Chile if HidroAysen’s plans move forward: fewer U.S. customers for Chilean products.

In September, International Rivers began asking consumers to sign postcards that ask The Home Depot to stop doing business with two large Chilean manufacturers of wood products, both of whom are heavily involved in the dams project. International Rivers is collecting these signed postcards and sending bunches of them daily to The Home Depot. For more info or to take action online visit the International Rivers Web site.