It must be hump day, because a slow-motion screw-the-environment catastrophe was just approved in Chile. A commission appointed entirely by President Sebastian Pinera gave the green light to a 2.75 gigawatt dam project that will "drown 14,000 acres, require carving clear-cuts through forests, and eliminate whitewater rapids and waterfalls that attract ecotourism," reports the Washington Post.
The area to be sacrificed is a mostly roadless expanse home to only three dozen families, but it is also " … the most beautiful place, I believe, on the planet,” says Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who kayaks there every year and called on Pinera to reconsider the project.
It's a classic case of development versus preservation of wildlands. Chile has a booming economy, an energy hungry mining industry and aspirations of a Brazil-style ascendancy to the upper echelons of the world's economy. The dam could provide up to a third of the country's power within 12 years, say its proponents.
Opponents, however, say “dude, you gonna argue with RFK Junior?” The approval was met with protests, and opposition lawmakers are investigating irregularities in the approval process of the dam.
It's worth noting that Chile has plenty of other, less destructive sources of renewable energy. It is, for example, one of the largest undeveloped areas for geothermal power in the entire world [PDF].
Chile approves huge dam project on wild rivers, opening remote Patagonia to development, Washington Post.