A sustainable Patagonia beyond HidroAysen

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Baker River, by Jimmy LangmanBaker River, by Jimmy Langman
By Patricio Segura
For many, today defines everything. For others, everything stays the same. For me, neither this nor that.
As Energy Minister Maximo Pacheco has said, for anyone who wants to hear him, and as has many congressmen have repeated, today they will not be deciding whether or not to build dams in Patagonia. “A Patagonia without dams is not in play,” has been Pacheco’s exact words.
And in that I am in agreement, whether they reject or approve HidroAysen.
If its discarded, it does not mean that the appetite for exploiting Aysen’s rivers has been vanquished. Neither that Daniel Fernandez (vice-president of HidroAysen) will appear tonight on national television, flanked by Jorge Rosenblut (president of Endesa Energy) and Bernardo Larrain Matte (president of Colbun), to say that they will not return their water rights to the State, that their environmental impact study was bad and the project even worse, so they will now create a foundation to defend Patagonia. If you want that to happen, don’t hold your breath.
While Chile’s and Patagonia’s rivers flow with their great strength, the drive to dam them will not abate. Because Energia Austral remains actively seeking a go-ahead to build a dangerous dam on the Cuervo River in Aysen. Because Puelo continues threatened. Because Alto Maipo is in construction.
In Aysen, as in the rest of Chile, we must prepare for that. Above all, debating the energy matrix we want as a region, and that includes recovering water rights as an essential task. This will involve people not just from Aysen, but all Chileans, because how we utilize water is important for all of us.
And if they approve the five dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers, neither will it be a defining moment for a Patagonia without dams. That the Patagonia Without Dams campaign also stated on May 9, 2011, when, with sadness in our soul we received the unjust decision of the Sebastian Pinera government to approve HidroAysen: “Our struggle is not that these nefarious projects not get approved, rather that they never happen.”
And we stated that, despite knowing that the Chilean institutions provide little space for citizens and communities to influence public policies and that the public interest is frequently torpedoed by private interests.
We reiterate, we know that today will not determine a future Patagonia without dams. That said, whatever happens in Santiago, in Aysen we will continue with the work of building a diverse and sustainable energy matrix from Aysen and for Aysen.
And that road is part of a greater path, a path called Aysen Reserve of Life, which is what we ultimately want and where we are going to go. 
Patricio Segura is a journalist for the Aysen Reserve of Life Coalition and the Patagonia Without Dams campaign

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Some of are guest columnists have so far included
  • Andres Gillmore, director of Corporación Costa Carrera 
  • Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
  • Lucas Chiappe, coordinator of Proyecto Lemu, El Bolson, Argentina
  • Damien Gillis, a documentary filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada
  • Jorge Moller, Chilean representative to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
To contribute a guest column, write to us at editors@patagonjournal.com

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