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Massive Chilean Dams Approved

from Nature News

Officials in Chile have approved a controversial US$3.2-billion project to construct five hydropower dams in Patagonia. The HidroAysén project--a collaboration between the country's two biggest energy firms--plans to generate 2,750 megawatts of power by damming two major rivers, the Baker and the Pascua. But it must first seek approval for a 2,300-kilometre transmission line, costing another US$3.8 billion, that would carry power to Santiago.

The project was finally given the go-ahead after an arduous three years in the approval process. The assessment was first presented to the Environmental Assessment Commission of Coyhaique--a regional government body in southern Chile--in August 2008, but the commission wasn't satisfied with it and asked for an addendum.

Dozens of public organizations and thousands of individuals pointed out weaknesses in the study, saying that it lacked crucial information, ignored important issues, used incomplete data, misrepresented facts and contained poor analyses. The project had to submit the assessment three more times, responding to 4,046 comments, before it was finally approved.

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