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El Maipo is a river that goes through the Chilean capital, Santiago. It is important for the region and for the capital since it represents 70% of the water consumed in the city and it irrigates agriculture communities of the metropolitan region. They also extract construction materials and it generates energy for five hydroelectric dams. Cajon del Maipo, the region where the river basin is located is also an important source of oxygen in Santiago.
The neighbors say the river’s flow has decreased over the years. For some years the river and the region have been threatened by a new transnational hydroelectric project. The company is AES Gener, a branch of US company AES. It will build a tunnel under the Andes mountains and it will need nearly 2 million cubic meters a day to generate nearly 190 megawatts a month.
Real World Radio interviewed Marcela Mella, one of the members of the Citizen Coordination of Maipo Rivers, an organization that has been resisting the Project since 2009.
The neighbors organized in the Citizen Coordination of Maipo Rivers exposed several problems: firstly, the energy would be destined for mining while they are saying it would be used for public purposes (hospitals, public lighting). In Chile 80% of the energy demand comes from mining. Secondly, the amount of water demanded by Alto Maipo is not available because it is an underused basin, so the flow has been reduced over the years. Before the Peoples’ Summit held in Santiago, the city was left without drinking water for one day because the river overflowed. The coordination reported that after the installation of Alto Maipo the supply of drinking water in Santiago has been affected.
Meanwhile, to take the water from the surface and put it in underground pipes would have serious consequences on agriculture and the ecosystem of Cajon del Maipo.
Marcela said that thanks to the company’s lobby and the traffic of influences and despite irregularities the project has the necessary licenses to operate. However, Alto Maipo doesn’t have the necessary funding to start operating until after winter. So the slogan of the neighbors is “We can still make it”.
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