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Lake Neltume – Panguipulli, Region de Los Rios, Chile

Name of the conflict: Lake Neltume

Where: Panguipulli, Region de Los Rios, Chile

Actors: The indigenous Mapuche communities of Panguipulli have been struggling for years to avoid that the landscape near lake Neltume and Choshuenco and the river Fuy is forever impacted by a mega-hydroelectric project. The construction company in charge of the work would be the Norwegian SN / Power, in consortium with Endesa Chile / Enel.

What is happening: At least six hydroelectric projects signed by Enel / Endesa and the Norwegian Power Sn, are threatening not only a still uncontaminated environment, but also the survival of more than 150 Mapuche communities that have been inhabiting these territories for more than five hundred years. The Region of the Rivers is crucial for the Chilean energy program, and the City of Panguipulli, inhabited by about 35,000 people, may  experience the concentration of about the 10% of the country’s hydroelectric capacity. An old ENEL dam became operational in 1962 and Enel seems to be still paying aridiculous annual royalty to Panguipulli Municipality. In more than 50 years the impacted communities have never received any compensation, although they have lost more than 300 hectares of land. Endesa is about to begin the construction of a new plant which, if implemented, would result in raising the level of Neltume lake which would submerge agricultural land and also the pampas sagrada, a sacred place of worship for the communities of the area.  The ENEL-ENDESA project is made of three separate components: the canalization tunnel, the generation component – i.e. the power plant itself, and the transmission line: the first, the construction of the tunnel, was authorized without consulting the local communities. The procedures of environmental impact assessment for the other two components are currently in progress. The mega-project violates Articles 2 and 7 of the ILO Convention on indigenous peoples and the community Inalafken, the Koz Koz parliament and the regional indigenous Mapuche organization Meli wixan Mapu claim the right to self-determination of their natural resources, including water. Furthermore, the company is manipulating the population, providing jobs and economic aid in exchange for consent to the project.

Dangers for the population: The environmental damages inherent to the construction of these plants, are associated with devastating consequences on the socio-economic level, such as the deterioration of traditional social system based on trust and stability and a crumbling of the links within the different communities. The dam would also render virtually impossible to develop crafts, farming and sustainable tourism projects that local communities would like to undertake.

Environmental hazards: Panguipulli is a world biosphere reserve and the impact of the project on the territory of the lake Neltume and Choshuenco and river Fuy, it is an intact ecosystem which would undergo irreparable consequences.

Possible solutions: To produce the necessary energy to the territory of Panguipulli is essential to maximize the existing plants. Indigenous communities claim their right to self-determination of their natural resources and the right to control institutions, territories, social structures, without any outside interference or domination.

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