Chile is truly a place of it's own...a place filled with treacherous mountains, gorging rivers, wide valleys, massive volcanoes and views as far as the eye can see. The country contains some of the most spectacular landscapes and natural flora and fauna around but unfortunately, all of that is at risk.
As with most places around the world, corporations have high influence and Chile is no different. The main issue in Chile is that the water is privatized. This means corporations can bid on water rights and own these rights for some of the most beautiful rivers in all of Chile. These companies then have the ability to use this water in any way they want and for well over a decade, that want has been hydro-electric mega dams.
Hydro-electric mega dams are projects that involve creating a dam along rivers that have the potential to produce a ton of electricity. This electricity is created as water runs through a turbine in the dam and can be transferred through power lines to typically a major city nearby. They are considered renewable, fairly effective, safe and Chile has some of the perfect rivers to implement these dams. Sounds like a great idea right? If only it were that simple.
These dams are a massive hindrance on the environment. They destroy the local flora and fauna and disrupt the local communities that live nearby. The damage that they cause, in most cases, is completely irreversible. There are many species, especially in Chile, that are endangered and their ecosystems are centered around these rivers. Once these dams are implemented, these species will be wiped out along with the beauty that these areas hold. Indigenous people that have lived here for years and years are also typically relocated and sometimes stripped of their cultural heritage. A lot of the dams don't even produce electricity but simply divert water and river flow, which still has a huge impact on the environment. The saddest thing is this is happening all over Chile.
A few areas that have been the main target of Chile and as of recently are the Maipo basin near Santiago, the Nuble river in the Bio Bio region, the Futaleufu watershed, the Achibueno river and many, many more. Luckily, there are organizations working to protect these areas and to save these communities and the environment. These organizations are scattered all across Chile and they are the ones that stand up and oppose certain projects in their local area. They are usually separate but they all have one thing in common - to protect Chile's natural areas and make sure they remain untouched. To that avail, these organizations work together to make sure Chile as a whole is protected.
These organizations need huge amounts of support from their local communities and outside sources in order to make a stand against these massive corporations. The image to the left is a prime example of a company sign next to a dam stating they are there to protect the wildlife when in fact, they are doing the complete opposite. As with most cases, one of the biggest issues is making people aware. When people are receiving false information and are being told lies by these corporations, it makes it even more difficult to rally a community against these projects. That has been the major issue in Chile where people are either not aware of what's going on in their own backyard or they are fed lies by these companies creating the projects.
The sign and dam projected above is where we were lucky enough to do our first environmentally based interview with Francisco, a member of Nuble Libre in San Fabian. Nuble Libre is an environmental community and organization aimed at protecting the famous Nuble River and the surrounding area. They are currently in a fight to protect an area called Punilla, which is threatened by the creation of a dam on the Nuble River. This area is particularly significant because it holds extremely rare tree species as well as other animal species that call this place their home. The river is also widely known for being an excellent place for rafting but if this dam was implemented, the river flow could be affected drastically.
Over the past decade though, Chile has come a long way and now is really taking a stand. These environmental organizations throughout Chile are building large followings against these dams and are starting to end up on the winning side. Organizations include the No Alto Maipo campaign, Nuble Libre, Futaleufu Riverkeepers, Ecosistemas, Conservacion Patagonica and so many more. These organizations fight to defend Chile's rivers, mountains and beautiful scenery that can't be found anywhere else in the world.
"Sin Represas" stands for "Without Dams" and has been the motto for Chile and specifically, Patagonia, ever since a company, HidroAysen, came into the region and attempted to control the rivers with these dams. This has become a movement and it can be seen all throughout the country. We are looking to be a part of this movement and we hope you will join us as we embark on this adventure to document and protect Chile. For more information, here are a few sites to check out to learn more about this movement and what you can do to help.
We'll be interviewing organizations in Santiago early in the week and then it's back on the trail! Continue to follow this blog to receive an inside look into the film, learn more about Chile and to get inspired to pack your bags and find your own adventure!