Shortly after the approval of a massive, $3 billion hydro-electric project in Chile’s Patagonia, around 1,000 people gathered to protest in downtown Santiago’s Plaza Italia. Police charged the crowd with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
An official poll showed that more than half (61%) of all Chileans are against the hydro projects. Damming will consist of 5 structures on 2 pristine rivers in the remote Aysen region – the largest source of fresh water in the world outside Greenland and the Poles. Power lines will run over 2,000 kilometres, across the entire length of the country, to power Chile’s mining operations in the North.
Those against the project argue that Chile’s extensive coastline and deserts present ample opportunities to generate renewable energy. HidroAysen will generate more than 20% of Chile’s in-country energy supply, but it will also leave around 80% of the grid in the hands of Spanish and Italian energy firms, exposing the nation to hikes in energy costs.
Poor policy during the Batchelet presidency and the selling of Chilean water rights to foreign energy companies Endesa and Colbun have been blamed for the result.