Alto Maipo: Water Conflict in Chile

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This film investigates the destructive effects of the Alto Maipo project in Chile, intended to provide electricity but destroying the eco-system and rural lives, in reality.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

On Screen: “Here, 48 kilometers away from the Chilean capital Santiago is a region with very unique natural characteristic in which the AES Gener Company is busy building a hydroelectric power plant. Residents of Cajon del Maipo and locals from other regions have teamed up to block the project.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: “This is usually a complicated issue from a legal view in Chile. Especially about water, because the entire access laws changed during the dictatorship period, all natural resources access laws, including the water access laws, changed back then.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Rodriguez Faondez, Coordinator at Modatima Movement: “There are many areas in north, center and south of the country that do not have water. That's the result of the fact that natural resources such as water have turned into commodities extracted excessively. Therefore, we should ask ourselves: Is water management in Chile efficient and logical? And is this crisis an outcome of the system or is it caused by this model of water management which is in the hands of the private sector?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “access is a crucial issue that defines development and lives of people. As long as water remains in the hands of these multinational or national companies people would have lesser chance to access water each time. This is the main reason why I fight against the Alto Maipo project.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jaime Zaror, Director of Maiop Valley Muleteers: “For them the economic issues and generating energy is more important than keeping traditions and conserving a natural heritage; yes, that's their discourse. In the past those en route to Argentina used to pass here, the liberation army passed here, and so did Manuel Rodriguez, Bernardo O' Higgins. Indeed Cajon de Maipo came into existence because of this fact.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Nelson Rubilar, Director of Association of Rafting Guides: “This exquisite place is in fact the back yard of the Great Santiago. Half of Chile, in fact nearly half of the people of Chile live there... This is the only natural site left for the locals... Destroying this place for the sake of building a vain project that serves the interests of one family or a mine company is very savage.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Mathias Ason, Director of Greenpeace Chile: “Nowadays water-related issues are the main causes of socio-environmental conflicts. In fact in all countries this is water that defines the relations of societies, cities and the residents of a region with big investments, especially those companies in the field of extraction.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: “Chile has lots of water, is replete with water resources, but these resources are geographically scattered. From Atacama Desert to Patagonia region and Tierra del Fuego, which is an important area; the southern and the northern Patagonia ice fields are the biggest aquifers in the Americas; based on this we can say Chile is a country with a huge potential in water resources, both frozen and fluid; Chile has many underground water reservoirs as well.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Mathias Ason, Director of Greenpeace Chile: “Water is usually owned by international companies. Chile is the only country in the world in which water has an owner. Isn't it? Of course it is. There's a contradiction here, although water has been titled a public and communal resource in all terms of the constitution the right to extract water is practically permanent and that is given for free in most of the cases, in the end they add an inseparable clause to the constitution and say water is a non-governmental property. And it happens many times, not just one or two times. I say in most of the cases this situation ends to the disadvantage of the people, because most of the water would be consumed for industrial activities instead of being used for development and the improvement of this country and its people's lives.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Rodriguez Faondez, Coordinator at Modatima Movement: “The dictatorship in Chile was not solely a military one; it was a civil military dictatorship. Those who drafted the constitution had a clear ideology: They believed that market should control society, they thought that market's role should be more important than the government's; because the government is secondary and has a monitoring role only. In a situation like this a series of interests entered the game, including water legislation and other laws. The government was restructured in the 80s based on the new Constitution. The current water legislation is more or less the result of laws drafted back then. We can see the rise of neo-liberalism and money-making views in all of the institutions established in the aftermath of these changes. This ideology has penetrated the water laws. Therefore, water laws are born out of this outlook and possess peculiar characteristics. The water legislation shows that this is firstly the government that grants the private sector the permanent right to free water while private companies eye the market, they sell, buy or lend water as they wish without considering anything like paying a price or tax. In other words, the government grants water to private companies for free and they do whatever they like with that water.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: “If we mix the water legislation drafted under the military dictatorship in 1981 with the Constitution approved in the same decade and under the same system we see that the way is paved for the privatization of water. Therefore, water has become a private personal property, like a car, or a house, clothes or any other belonging. You can lend it, sell it etc. And this has caused a very big problem. What happened in this whole period was the formation of a trend concerning the concentration of water rights.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Rodriguez Faondez, Coordinator at Modatima Movement: “In 2011 the government of President Pinera ordered a study into water rights in Chile, we better say a research about the business of water rights in Chile. The research was done at the request of the World Bank. The outcome of the research, like many other similar results, said between 2005 and 2008 we had nearly 20,000 water transactions in Chile worth 4.8 billion dollars. The amount of money exchanged in Chile's water market is enormous and that's the result of the water legislation.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “My name is Marcelo Oya Ortiz. I'm the spokesman and the Maipo's river citizen's coordinator. The organization has been a strict opponent of the Maipo project since 8 years ago. I used to work in Santiago, later I lost my job, I had two daughters, two little daughters, I wished they could grow up in a place better and prettier than Santiago. I paid a visit to Maipo at times and I made acquaintance with the locals here. A friend of mine suggested that I move to this region to work. I was very lucky because my wishes were realized, I got my dreams, the dream of my children living and growing up in a place better than Santiago, a place that was similar to the place I was raised in. When we first arrived here for living the girls were 3 and 4. That was one of the best decisions I ever made in my whole life.

In all these years we were forced to shoulder the government's duties, the government responsibilities and the duties of all those inside the government, no matter the government is a majority or a coalition government, it only thinks about the interests and the welfare of great domestic and international companies, the government does not care about the society's welfare, the case of water access laws is an example. Access to water is a human right.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Mathias Ason, Director of Greenpeace Chile: “Countries that attract more investment are exactly the ones that emphasize water as a human right in their culture. Aren't they? If a country deems water a human right the idea would be reflected in that country's public political decisions, in investment projects and in the government's policies regarding those projects. The question is whether the issue of water is addressed in an investment project. Will there be guarantees as to ensure everybody the right to access water. Is social justice important in these projects? All these issues show if the government cares about water or not.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Rodriguez Faondez, Coordinator at Modatima Movement: “Chile has lost sovereignty over its public properties, and this is something that is crucial and necessary for each country's existence. Nowadays Chile has rule over its strategic public properties. Chile has no sovereignty not only on human's lives but also on the ecosystem, the society, and on its production. Chile has no sovereignty, no authority over its waters.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: “This government and the governments involved in globalized world economy only care about the investors’ rights to cement investments. They don't care about citizens' rights. The situation is more brutal in Chile, because the core of our law was indisputably laid down in the pre democracy era. Because there was no national assembly at that time. That's why we face ugly and ruthless laws. Unfortunately we see other countries are also moving in nearly the same direction. The story is that governments eventually turn into employees of private sector and multinational companies under the aegis of economic growth and ending poverty. The governments protect the rights of investors, the private sector and the multinational companies at the expense of crushing the rights of the society's majority.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “The case of the environmental consequences of the Alto Maipo project was brought to fore in 2007. Back then a copy of a study on the environmental impact assessment reached our district municipality that was understaffed and did not have ample financial resources at the time. The then mayor forced the Andino school, where his daughter was a studying in, to take care of the environmental report.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “Fortunately there are many specialists on the environmental consequences of the Alto Maipo living in our region. They have even conducted a primary monitoring of this huge project and assessed its impacts on environment. For sure we will investigate the effects of this project to see what harms it could cause not only to our region but also to the Chilean capital's development.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Knaak, Market Director at AES: “Alto Maipo project provides a cheap and eco-friendly energy with easy access in the center of a region that has the highest level of energy consumption. Doesn't it? Therefore, all the environmental impacts related to energy transfer that caused controversies for many major projects have practically been resolved in the Alto Maipo project. Actually we build only 17 kilometers of supply lines. This is a new type of energy that replaces other sources that were neither eco-friendly nor cost-effective. Energies generated in other power plants are basically different with that of the Alto Maipo.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “We soon found out that contrary to what the AES Gener company had said these power plants were not ordinary and temporary; Moreover, they wanted to build a tunnel to return the water of three main rivers that join Maipo; we understood that digging the 70-kilometer tunnel was a grave threat that could have affected the environment, the region's fauna and flora and the residents of that area.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Nelson Robilar, Head of the Association of Businessmen and Rafting Guides: “My name is Nelson Robilar, the head of the Association of Businessmen and Rafting Guides. I am here, in Maipo valley. I own a company named Isotherm. I was born and bred in Maipo region. In fact my grandparents came to Maipo and accidentally set up the central sewage system, the city's square and all of these things here. Three generations of us lived in Maipo. I also live here and am very lucky to have had the chance of enjoying the mountains and a very calm rural life; all the people know each other in here, all the neighbors. People can look straight into each others' eyes when walking on the streets because they're familiar with each other. You walk on the streets and greet everyone.”

This place has rivers, but in addition to that does have mountains, rocks, lakes, fossil graveyards, glaciers and hidden jungles. In here natural resources can be found in abundance and you need a whole lifetime to get to know all of them. We believe this is deception when a huge multinational company like AES Gener comes to this village and sow division while apparently it's creating jobs and boosting regional economy; but in fact this is us, we’re generating money, this is us, we’re creating jobs, we the locals, companies belonging to this place, this region.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Eduardo Laborderie, President of Cajon del Maipo Chamber of Tourism: “The Chamber of Tourism alone has 1,500 employees. If we multiply the number by four, that represents the average family members, we see that in fact 6,000 people earn their living directly from the chamber. If we add the unofficial tourism to this number and take that part of official tourism excluded from the chamber we can say that 80 percent of San Jose de Maipo's population makes money out of tourism.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Nelson Robilar, Head of the Association of Businessmen and Rafting Guides: “AES Gener, the Alto Maipo applicant, is a multinational firm and has been officially present in the region since approximately 1930 to 1941. In all these years they haven't been encouraging and have not supported local economy despite the fact that they have conducted many projects, including the Maipo project that received wide media coverage.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Eduardo Laborderie, President of Cajon del Maipo Chamber of Tourism: “In San Jose de Maipo we do not have enough workforce to employ 3,000 people. Moreover, 3,000 work forces are not available in the region who would like to work for Alto Maipo. In the beginning everybody thought the project would rescue the locals and the region and eradicate poverty but nowadays people have understood that the project is to their disadvantage. They have learned that all of the project's workers would lose their jobs in four years. People would feel they've been deceived, won't they? The company had promised high salaries for the workers, but now we see the promise wasn't kept. Alto Maipo workers went on strike thrice to protest their meager salaries. That's the story of this project. They lured these people with their lies.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Knaak, Market Director at AES: “As I said we've been in this region since 1920. Alto Maipo has brought the region many services. It has cooperated with the locals in some social plans. Alto Maipo has participated in the Support Fund for Local Businessmen and Entrepreneurs. We also have programs for the education and empowerment of the locals. I'd like to emphasize that Alto Maipo is the continuation of the Alfafal project. Those who experienced the Alfafal project in the years between 1985 and 1991 very well know about the social benefits the Alto Maipo project brings in. Thanks to this project the people of this region managed to send their children to school and improve the quality of their lives. That's exactly what we're doing with the Alto Maipo project. Alto Maipo provided the underprivileged people of this region with mobile phone coverage. Children used to walk for kilometers to reach an area with internet connections but nowadays they have easy access to internet, all because of the Alto Maipo project.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “Right now access to water has turned into a serious problem in many parts of Chile. Municipalities have been forced to spend a lot of money buying trucks for water delivery. They have been forced to buy water because of the water situation in Chile which is private in this country. As a result those who hold the right to this water enjoy legal support. In other words they come first, they use water before anyone else and the leftover water would be given to people. When it comes to the Maipo Valley I should note than 40% of these people do not have access to drinking water. This comes as the valley provides water to 7 million residents of the capital Santiago.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Knaak, Market Director at AES: “Glaciers are of utmost importance to us. They are one of our priorities. We move one kilometer below glaciers, we're talking about one kilometer rocks. All the experiments proved the vibration caused by our excavations does not negatively affect the glaciers at all and doesn't harm them. Tremors that usually rock Chile are by large much more powerful than the vibrations we create during digging. Therefore, we have no concern as we're sure our job wouldn't affect glaciers. Apart from that, we use predictive methods to make sure the Alto Maipo project doesn't damage any of the region's glaciers.”

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Cedomir Maraangunic, Director of Georostudios: “The Alto Maipo project doesn't decrease or increase the rivers’ water volume. In fact in this project we let the water in, use it and let it out into the river a few kilometers away. This project does not change the glaciers' situation at all. Water passes through tunnels built under some of the glaciers, in a depth way beneath glaciers, somewhere around 1,000 meters low.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Knaak, Market Director at AES: “This project has been designed and controlled based on highest global standards. Some international fiscal bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank have financial participation in this project. It took 21 months for them to assess the project. They finally decided to involve in some parts of the project. The Alto Maipo project meets the highest standards of today's world.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: “It's true that the project was passed in 2009 but it received no budget at that time. They couldn't allocate money to this project. The project had a problem. Its passage was incomplete and many other problems. Therefore it couldn't win any budget until 2012 when the Luksic group entered the project. Luksic owns the Antafagasia mining company which is affiliated with the los Pelambres mining company etc. Luksic also owns Banco de Chile, a banking and financial service company that has bought 49 percent of this project. When the bank entered the project it used financial institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) as its leverage. These institutions are a number of fiscal funds with links to American investors or multi-national banks; in fact the necessary fund for running the project was collected this way. The Alto Maipo project kick-started its operation in 2014, not a long time ago. The project couldn't get the required recognition prior to that year as it was a bankrupt project. Now what happened when the Luksic group decided to buy the project? In fact it bought the energy generated through the project. Therefore, the water used in this project is not meant to supply energy to all people of Chile, it only produces energy for the mining projects of the Luksic family, that is Los Pelambres mining project. It's located right here, 300 kilometers away from Santiago. As a result, the water rights owned by AES Gener in this project are actually serving mining projects, not the Chilean nation.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Knaak, Market Director at AES: “The Luksic group is involved in the Alto Maipo project, I understand the reason why and the fact is that I cannot speak for them; because we construct the project, but I know they are part of this project because they found out the project is a very good one, a project that is compatible with nature and meets all legal issues; the Luksic family were once interested in taking part in energy projects of Chile.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maximo Pacheco, Former Minister of Energy: “Chile has a long history in the mining industry, we are the biggest copper producers in the world; Chile has lots of jungles, we're a giant in producing cellulose. Chile has 4,000 kilometers of shorelines; we have huge potentials in fishery. We're interested in developing inclusive economy, an economy capable of expanding human talents that would seek to mix our assets with our human resources.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Protesters: “Say together: No to Alto Maipo project. Our mountains are getting destroyed. The Luksic financial group and the AES Gener multinational company have decided to own all water in Santiago. We won't allow these criminals take our drinking water. Animals, plants, indigenous jungles, all are being destroyed. Add glaciers to this list, they supply our water, glaciers are being wiped out. All of us defend water, there's no life without water; people of this region have decided to defend drinking water because we will always need it, and if we fail to protect it fruits and vegetables will dry out. No to Alto Maipo!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Cedomir Maraangunic, Director of Georostudios: “The fact that this energy is transferred to the country's north or south doesn't really matter. The thing that matters is that Chile must have energy; it's not really important who handles the project. It's not equally important that a certain mining company has contributed to the project in the north.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maximo Pacheco, Former Minister of Energy: “Chile has defined an energy agenda that is very important to be implemented so that our country doesn't hold the highest electricity price among other Latin American countries. The high electricity price has put families in Chile under pressure; it has strained companies as well reducing their competitive power in economic activities. In the past five years the electricity price in Chile experienced a hike of up to 30%. This inflicts losses on jobs and families. That's why we designed the energy agenda and put it into action; the first goal of this program is to task the government with the role of managing energy policies. The second aim: to develop the entire infrastructure for generating and transferring energy. Third: to make market competitive. Fourth: to promote a single efficient energy policy. Fifth: to do all these things with social legitimacy. This means devising an energy policy while you take people's benefits into consideration, that's how we can overcome our problems in the energy sector.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Thomas Gonzalez, Engineer of Renewable Natural Resources: “We still don't have laws for preserving glaciers. In Chile only the national properties enjoy protection; glaciers are not confined to these white spots that you see, glaciers are an ecosystem in themselves, a frozen layer deep down in the earth. For instance, if a project starts 100 kilometers away from a glacier with thick layers of ice and if the earth gets warmer, the glacier starts to melt even if the white spot on its exterior remains intact. The new law of preserving glaciers says at least 2 kilometers around the glacier should be considered a protected area. Under this law the Alto Maipo project can't dig tunnels under glaciers.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Rodriguez Faondez, Coordinator at Modatima Movement: “No doubt the water regime in the upper basin would be affected 100%. There has been no study or hydrogeological research on the consequences of this project; this is appalling. In other words, they have accepted this project without conducting any research.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Thomas Gonzalez, Engineer of Renewable Natural Resources: “I should frankly say that the AES Gender company does not respect the environmental flow. Chile is now fully committed to international laws regarding the environmental flow. It respects the use of 20% of the river discharge as mentioned in the law. At the time the Alto Maipo project was being weighed up the law allowed the use of only 10% of the river discharge. AES Gener was a smart company. It obtained the water level records belonging to 50 years ago which was much higher compared to today. The company also owned water rights. They bought the water to be able to extract the water left after the application of the 10% law but from the water discharge of 50 years ago. Nowadays the river discharge in Maipo has decreased 30 to 40%. If they take the water they want from Maipo the water discharge would go down to less than 10 % in all the rivers that join Maipo. So we see that they haven't abided by law, neither when it was 10% nor now that it's 20%.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Andrea Paredes, Regional Director of Environmental Assessment Service: “The legal process for the environmental aspects of the Alto Maipo project kicked off in 2008. The then regional environment council passed an environmental resolution in favor of the project at the end of 2009. Back then the National Commission on the Environment (CONAMA) was in charge of environmental issues; the commission evaluated the project and proposed a bill titled studying the environmental impacts of the Alto Maipo project; then they put forward a set of suggestions calling on the project managers to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of the project the commission would mention and also accept the consequences that could emerge during the project evaluation. Regarding modifications or change in the project I should say we didn't see any. The organization offered two proposals to them, one concerning the compensation plan for environmental damages which was resolved and another proposal that is being discussed right now.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: “Unfortunately none of the authorities are ready to answer. Nowadays a project can engage a basin negatively. They take the rivers' water, lead it to private tunnels, dewater rivers to fill private tunnels and return waters' money to Santiago. But this process leads to the desertification of the 100,000 hectare Maipo basin. And this is definitely related to glaciers, weather and the air ventilation of Santiago. Therefore, this project is causing malfunctions in all the bio-physic system; the bio-physic that has kept the ecosystem running and is supplying Santiago's water. We told the government listen, if you earn your living by keeping a cow and you don't take care of it properly your cow falls ill and won't give you milk. And this is what we're actually doing in this region; this is what authorities are doing by endorsing a private project that allows for interference with nature. They take the Volkan river water, lead it to a private tunnel, then mix it with Yes river water, and push the water to one single tunnel to later blend it with Colorado river and guide it to yet another tunnel. In practice 70 kilometers of the Maipo river goes dry and they return the water to this place, that is the Santiago entry point. This devastates the eco-system that in the first place allows these rivers to flow and bring about these services. We can say this project provides food for today at the expense of hunger for tomorrow.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Rodriguez Faondez, Coordinator at Modatima Movement: “The Alto Maipo hydroelectricity project would affect the water that some 120,000 farmers use, those who supply food to the capital. Have we ever thought how the capital is going to provide food to its residents and what happens to these minor farmers? What would happen if a region resorts to imports from thousands of kilometers away to supply its citizens with food?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jaime Zaror, Director of Maipo Valley Muleteers: Well my name is Jayme Zarver. I am the head of Chile's first equestrian tourism company. And yes, we're the first tourism company in Cajon de Maipo region as well. Our company's name is Maipo Valley Muleteers. Years ago under the then government officials decided to turn Cajon de Maipo into a pilot program of sustainable tourism. Based on this I said to myself that I have my family, my children are living here, it would be really good if we could contribute to expansion of tourism in this region. I used to attend equestrian tours in Patagonia. That was when the idea of coming to this region and realizing this dream struck my mind. The things we see here, this dream, all are completely based on rebuilding.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Thomas Gonzalez, Engineer of Renewable Natural Resources: “Cajon de Maipo is a protected area. There's no house in this region. Cajon de Maipo has the potential for holding scientific research on the mine's impacts. This region has a huge tourism potential as well. They declared Maipo a sustainable tourism destination across the country along with Eapanqui region and Llanquihue Lake. These areas are natural priorities; national strategy to protect nature declared this issue; There are two natural sanctuaries in these areas as well. These are natural sites that could be subject to study and geological research. There are only five sites in the whole world that their eco-systems have such characteristics. The Mediterranean ecosystem and the Sclerophyll jungles are small areas that have similarities with Cajon de Maipo. If we manipulate these areas we have destroyed part of the earth's natural history.”

INTERVIEW [Spanish] Andre Pardez: “-There was one environmental development project in Cajon de Maipo. There were only three regions in Chile set for planned limited environmental development projects.

-You were not supposed to ask this question.

-Do you answer or not?

- No. That's why we had asked to have the questions.

-What?

-Yes, that's it.”

TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Vlado Morisevic, Political Scientist: “Well, I think these industries, in other words these small markets of forestry, mining, agriculture etc have created a lobby? Haven’t they? Especially in energy sector, that's needless to say. They have created numerous campaigns in political power in a way that they don't think about people at all; they have forgotten people's priorities. If access to water and using it is one of the citizen's priorities, that's not the case for big companies at all. All they care about is their market, their investment and that the country secures them the energy they need; I deem it logical. All these things need to be mixed. I believe the Chilean institution have failed to do so. A tangible example is the environmental laws. See how people were forced to take a series of actions in the face of a weak environmental law in order to stop mining and energy projects that directly harm them.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maximo Pacheco, Former Minister of Energy: “We have supported all the eco-friendly projects in Chile. We have a set of environmental laws and as the result the government tries to make projects compatible with them. Projects are screened for environmental issues in their early stages. The government supports only those projects that have acquired environmental licenses.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Vlado Morisevic, Political Scientist: “For example a mining project in the fourth district of the northern Caimanes region dewatered a river completely, as a result the people's livelihoods perished, residents of Caimanes lost their access to water. The company easily denied them water; they did it because they own huge mines. They left their tailing exactly in the waterways, the river that provided people with water.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: “The passage of the Alto Maipo project was in itself a breach of law, because many of the project's licenses were in violation of law. A number of non-governmental organizations did a research on this issue; an organization like Sustainable Chile that I represent. Or the Civil Coordinator for Maipo River organization in which we participate. Despite all that, we managed to form an investigation committee in parliament. The committee contacted the then minister of environment and the water authority. The board also talked to the then electricity and fuel supervisor and established contact with all related authorities in that time. They said the endorsement of the Alto Maipo project was completely illegal. The report was passed before parliament. So nowadays we all know that this project has legal problems.”

TIME CODE: 45:00_53:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jaime Zaror, Director of Maipo Valley Muleteers: “These days it's really hard to take animals on a trip in summer. There are different types of problems; because there's no water in places where you used to visit with your family or stay for two or three months. Cattles cannot graze without water. Without water there would be no livestock at all. When you couldn't take your cattle to graze what are you going to do? You have to sell your livestock. All these things are linked together in a cycle.

I believe the world has turned upside down, hasn't it? See, these days the company that I run is about to go bankrupt. On the other hand we see many foreign visitors love the local style of living. On the national level it seems that we're more concerned over jobs or we've been deceived in a way that we always worry about our job, we owe more money day by day, an economic model which is not sustainable at all. In other words the thing that we've been promised is being hidden to make us believe that energy is a very important thing. Energy for what? Energy for who? These days everybody knows that a group of certain families hold energy and use it for a series of mining projects; energy is not for us the people. I understand it. But there are numerous ways to generate energy. Why don't we notice once and for all that we need to approach the locals? We need to return to traditions. Here, it seems the most important thing is that the smartphones work and no energy shortage be felt, but this is not the reality.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “Those who need energy the most are we, the citizens of Chile. In this country only 16% of energy production is allocated to people's consumption, to houses, to public light, to hospitals, to police stations etc. The rest of energy is kept for mines, for agriculture industry, for forestry, for industries. They threaten that if the Alto Maipo project be stopped we may go dark; we may have power outages or be not able to charge our cellphones or computers. This is a lie. Because the National Energy Commission asserts that people only consume 16% of energy, not more.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Knaak, Market Director at AES: “The project has started working now. It began twenty months ago. It has made 20% progress. The project won't be suspended as we believe it is very much to the benefit of the country, not to the benefit of a certain group that do not understand the issue or follow other agendas. Is it correct? We will help the country grow by the very good Alto Maipo project. It would be excellent for the country.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Vlado Morisevic, Political Scientist: “The aim of the neoliberal model is unlimited efficiency. This means that resources are unrestricted as well; but that's not the case, the environment is limited and neoliberal economists do not understand it and I think this economic model has inflicted heavy losses on societies and the environment in Chile.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens:

Alto Maipo is the emblem of political influence-peddling in Chile because of all these actions done in the fields of energy or agro-industry or forestry etc. Here we had influence-peddling, we had conflict of interests; companies involved in building the Alto Maipo project lobbied with the then governmental officials in charge of assessing the project.

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jaime Zaror, Director of Maipo Valley Muleteers: “I'm sure the project will pay off and get the required government licenses and finishes before this government's term expires. But we need to wait for years to get to this conclusion that what we said at that time was not a correct decision. I always think to myself what's going to happen to men and women of these mountains in ten years? Will they continue to exist? Will our equestrian tourism progress with these men who take the visitors to show them the landscape and make them praise? Or maybe we must get accustomed to life alongside trucks, a life that would crush, that would disrespect and wipe out people who have actually lived this way.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Matias Asun, Director of Greenpeace Chile: “You will get to know that in Chile it's not impossible to see a pig has more water rights than a human being. Chile exports fresh fruit to other parts of the world. But a person who lives inside the country must cope with a drying river. Even the water delivery truck brings in low-quality water. These people depend on the municipality and the cost of life goes higher and higher for them. The price also increases for the local infrastructure that must provide a good which is actually available but only for a certain group of people, not all.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Sara Larrian, Former Director of Sustainable Chile Program: In Chile it's really interesting to see a structural confrontation between people and the government, especially regarding water and conflicts that break out over it, those people who no longer want to be exploited and a government that has no respect for these rights.

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Jaime Zaror, Director of Maipo Valley Muleteers: “As days go by we grow stronger against this issue; we give speeches, we're united to understand that what we do is saving our heritage; we want people in other countries to see we're still here; I'm sure we'll make a role model for the posterity in this region so that they know that the environment is a real treasure. “

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Nelson Rubilar, Director of Association of Rafting Guides: “Here in Chile the people, the society and the land organizations' ideas have no importance. They have no say. What people think about is not important? The society, families, what they think... none of them matters.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Marcella Oya Ortiz, Spokesperson of Maipo River Citizens: “This battle for us is not limited to defending out lifestyle. We want to help the country develop. The Alto Maipo project only benefits its owners; it has nothing for Cajon de Maipo, the rest of Chile or even the capital Santiago.”

   

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