Chile: high court rejects challenge to hydroelectric dam project

The Supreme Court of Chile ruled April 4 that a proposed mega-scale hydroelectric dam complex in Patagonia does not violate the constitutional rights of residents opposing the project. Several environmental advocacy groups, including Chile Sustentable, challenged a ruling of the Court of Appeals of Puerto Montt which refused to issue an injunction to stop the construction of the dam, finding that the project does not violate the constitutional rights of those in opposition. The HidroAysen, a private Chilean venture, seeks to build five dams whose construction was approved by the Chilean government in May 2011. Chile Sustentable expressed disappointment following the ruling but vowed to continue to challenge the project in court, indicating the group is considering bringing a challenge to the project in an international forum.

The decision to allow the construction of dams in Patagonia has been a controversial one. In June 2011, a Chilean appeals court ordered the temporary suspension of the $10 billion HidroAysen project, approving three petitions challenging government authorization of the dam construction and granted the plaintiffs’ petition for injunction. The court lifted the temporary suspension in October 2011 allowing work on the project to move forward and spurring a constitutional challenge by environmentalists.

From Jurist, April 5. Used with permission.

The isolated southern region of Aysén has been the scene of a wave of militant protests in recent weeks.

See our last posts on Chile and regional struggles for control of water.