Aysen organizations denounce mega real estate projects in Patagonia

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Photo: Geute Conservation  Photo: Geute Conservation
By Patricio Segura
Translation by Dawn Penso
In a complaint filed with the Regional Office of the Environmental Superintendency (SMA), social and environmental organizations in the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia are denouncing that mega subdivisional real estate properties planned for the region must first seek approval via the country's environmental impact system process (SEIA).
The Private Corporation for the Development of Aysén and the Aysén Reserve of Life Association led the action which specifically calls on the environmental evaluation of 22 subdivisional properties which currently have already received certification from the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) between 2016 and January 2022. The initiative was done with the legal assistance of the Santiago non-profit environmental law firm FIMA.
The official complaint cites a breach of article 3(g) of Chile's SEIA regulations that investment projects must submit to SEIA "housing complexes with an amount equal to or greater than eighty (80) homes" in any of its stages that are susceptible to cause anenvironmental impact.
In this regard, there are multiple rulings by the courts and the Comptroller's Office that have established that the act of subdivision can be considered one of the stages of a housing development, and should therefore be evaluated as a preventive principle.
The president of Aysén Reserve of Life Association, Peter Hartmann, said that the subdivision of mega lots in an unregulated manner without control has a high impact on the ecosystems of Aysén and the services required by the communities. "We are putting at risk many qualities of our Aysén reserve of life and on the other hand they make a very good business and externalize all their problems," said Hartmann. "We are going to start with their requests to the State, such as rural drinking water, which takes water from others, electrification, roads, garbage collection, things of that kind. This is no minor issue the change of subsoil that is happening on a large scale in the region," he pointed out.

"We are putting at risk many qualities of our Aysén reserve of life and on the other hand they make a very good business and externalize all their problems."


Andrea Macías Palma, regional governor of Aysén, speaking at the press conference. Andrea Macías Palma, regional governor of Aysén, speaking at the press conference.
Meanwhile, the president of the Aysén Private Development Corporation, Erwin Sandoval, signaled this is in line with environmental impact assessment system regulations. “We have done an investigation since 2016 and to date and minute we are denouncing these 22 mega land projects that consider more than eighty lots. Today, our environmental legislation establishes urbanization projects in soils. This includes, for example, rural cases that have to be subjected to the eighty plots,” he said.
For her part, the Aysen regional governor, Andrea Macías Palma, who was also present at the organization's press conference, stated she supported their complaint, advocating for territorial definitions in Aysén to be adopted and planned, and with citizen participation.
"Patagonia's lands are being sold without carrying out studies on water carrying capacity, water supply, and wetlands. In the end, we are putting at risk the population that has historically inhabited these places. There is no care as to how we protect the territory so that in the future and in consideration of climate change, no thought has been given to the effects on food, for example," she explained.
"There are real estate companies that are carrying out this evasion, because let's be clear: here they are not people who live in the region and who are going to buy half a hectare to be able to live here, we are talking about mega lots. Here Patagonia is being parceled up, here there are companies that are selling land over the internet without considering all the effects this will have on the development of our region", alluding to the responsibility of the Regional Government of Aysén to safeguard the quality of life of the inhabitants, the protection of water and biodiversity", she added.

Impacts of mega-lot developments
In recent years, interest in buying land in Aysén has increased significantly.  Through different channels (newspapers, social networks, signs on roads), it is known about the sale of plots and land in different sectors of the territory.
This offensive has deepened as a result of the pandemic and the climate crisis (problems of access to water, interest in living close to nature in less populated areas, technological possibilities of teleworking), putting environmental and social pressure on the region and its carrying capacity, in addition to the risks to the public system for the future provision of services (water, energy, waste disposal, sewage, etc.), outside of planning.
Historically, the subdivision of rural properties in Aysén has followed different logics (hereditary succession due to death of owners, creation of one or two plots to capitalize), which is not only necessary, but legitimate as these are measures that do not involve a major intervention in the territory.
However, in recent times there have been subdivisions driven by real estate developers, who buy land with the sole objective of making their investment profitable, regardless of the public interest, both for those who already live in these sectors and for the ecosystems.
Some of the impacts of unplanned macrolots are increased pressure on water sources, forests for energy, deforestation (to build and lay out roads), fragmentation of the territory with impacts on biological corridors, water contamination (disposal of gray and black water), soil contamination (disposal of waste).  This, in addition to difficulties of access to water for existing communities, when the lots put pressure on the same watersheds, complicates the provision of services to existing communities by the new inhabitants of the lots, among other effects.

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