The Negative Impacts of the HidroAysén Project on Tourism

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This week, the Council for the Defense of Patagonia (CDP), through its executive secretary, Patricio Rodrigo, was invited by the Special Commission on Tourism of the lower chamber of Chile’s Congress to speak about the negative impacts of the HidroAysen project on tourism. At the same meeting, the vice-president of HidroAysen, Daniel Fernandez, was also invited but he did not attend. 
 
At the meeting, CDP explained in detail the negative effects to tourism from the five big dams that Endesa and Colbun wants to build on the Baker and Pascua rivers. As well, they discussed the negative impacts on the scenic landscape of Aysen Patagonia from the construction of more than 2,300 kilometers of a electric transmission line. That electric line in particular will affect also the southern zone of the country and central Chile, altogether including some 67 provinces, 9 regions and more than 4.6 million hectares. The line will include 6,200 towers of 70 meters in height -- towers equivalent in size to two-thirds of the enormous Entel tower in Santiago or two and a half times the maximum height of the native forests of southern Chile. 
 
CDP emphasized the loss of economic and cultural value that these projects will cause. The academic and consultant Fernando Salamanca, who accompanied CDP at their presentation to the politicians, explained that the economic loss just for the Aysen region alone is estimated, based on a study from the University of Chile, to be more than 40 million dollars per year. Moreover, there will be losses amounting to more than 4,000 permanent jobs in tourism, tourism-related businesses and transport. 
 
As well, they spoke about the economic impact to the environmental heritage by damaging the scenic landscape. They cited a study by University of California researcher Keri Prince, who using contingent valuation methodology, found that the ecological loss from the dams would amount to between 840 and 945 million dollars, and for the electric line, the loss to the nation’s natural heritage would amount to 2.94 billion dollars. The latter numbers includes the economic value of the negative externalities of the project which would leave the country with a net loss of 3.88 billion dollars just considering the effects on the scenic landscape. This is a cost that all Chileans will donate freely to Endesa and Colbun if we permit that this project is built. 
 
The congressmen were left impressed, and have asked CDP to return next Wednesday to answer more questions on the issue. 
 
As well, the congressmen suggested that a seminar in Santiago ought to be organized to hear the diverse opinions from tourism actors that will be affected negatively by the project, as well as sound out a proposal that HidroAysen has made through different fora regarding the development of tourism of dams in Patagonia. 
 
Without doubt, these kinds of meetings are an excellent opportunity to listen to the different sides and their arguments, and thus improve the decisions of legislators and public opinion with respect to this controversial project. 
 
Source, photos: Council for the Defense of Patagonia (CDP)