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The hydroelectric plants that threaten the rivers of the Elicura Valley

The hydroelectric plants that threaten the rivers of the Elicura Valley

“So when the date of that meeting arrived, they would go up there, to Provoque, and play the küll küll, they listened to all those pa there pa Lebu, and they all arrived and met, played palin, nguillatun, everything, they all formed the kawins there they, and that was directed by Eli, the chief Eli who was the main lonko of the Valley of Elicura. He was very practical to make the sling, to throw the stone, so that's why the stone belonged to Eli, everything belonged to him, he commanded it, he directed everything, and when he left, the stone remained, he left, Eli Ñicura, Ñi, left his stone, Eli left, left his stone… ”(Lonko José Leviqueo)

Elicura, Mapuche territory marked by decades of intervention by forestry companies and large landowners. The gospel and state paternalism. Located in the Contulmo commune, in the south of the Arauco province, since 2006 it has resisted companies looting natural resources such as the extraction of aggregates, which have irremediably intervened the Elicura and Calebu rivers, direct tributaries of Lake Lanalhue , today in danger of getting bogged down as a result of the little fight caused by the black-necked swans that today inhabit its waters after emigrating from the Cruces River, in Valdivia, in response to the contamination caused by Celco.

Added to the forestry companies and the sad memory left by the aggregate extraction companies, today a new threat is added: The hydroelectric plants. It was in July 2016, by chance, that the inhabitants of the Elicura Valley discovered the existence of the energy project promoted by the Spanish company, Hidrowatt, belonging to the Impulso business group, whose executive director is the Hispanic businessman José María Grugues.

Hidrowatt intends to build three passing hydroelectric plants in the territory. These are: Gustavito Power Plant with 2.1 Mega Watts (MW) of power; Provoque of 1.6 MW and Calebu of 2.3 MW. Once the project was known, the inhabitants of the Elicura Valley went to the pertinent institutions to demand explanations regarding the project. However, the then mayor of Contulmo, Diego Ibáñez; the governor of Arauco, Humberto Toro, both socialists, added to the Biobío Environment seremi, Richard Vargas and the regional director of the General Water Directorate (DGA) César Saavedra indicated that they were unaware of the project, arguing that "there was no formal presentation" in the aforementioned institutions.

Although the authorities denied the project, theelicurachethey knew of its existence and mobilizations began. This is how on July 29, 2016, more than 100 inhabitants of the valley took the P-60R highway that connects Contulmo with Cañete, in opposition to the hydroelectric project.

Marked the turning point, the inhabitants of the valley organize themselves, forming the Movement in Defense of the Rivers of the Elicura Valley, composed of Mapuche and non-Mapuche people who seek to generate debate and raise awareness among the inhabitants of the valley about this new threat. In this transit, propaganda days are organized, filling the houses of the valley with canvases against Hidrowatt, and work is being done to install the conflict in the media, in order to generate the support of other networks that share this problem in different territories.

Despite the fact that the authorities continued to deny the existence of the project, in October 2016 the company Hidrowatt submitted to the Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) the request for the relevance of the “Gustavito” project, which was authorized by the regional director of the SEA, Nemesio Rivas Martínez. The resolution reads that Hidrowatt did not require to pass its project "Small hydroelectric plant Gustavito (2.1 MW)" by the Environmental Impact Assessment Service (SEIA), giving it the green light to begin executing the hydroelectric project by violating incidentally, the holding of the respective indigenous consultation.

Although the authorities denied the project, the elicurache knew of its existence and mobilizations began. This is how on July 29, 2016, more than 100 inhabitants of the valley took the P-60R highway that connects Contulmo with Cañete, in opposition to the hydroelectric project.

"Gustavito" would intervene the course of the Provoque River, building a structure that would generate a flow rate of 2 m3 / s considering the 500-meter drop in the flow and thus be able to raise the maximum power to 2.1 MW. For this, it is necessary, from its intake, to pipe the river for 12 kilometers until it reaches a loading chamber that will dam up to fifty thousand cubic meters of water, building a cement structure that will have walls up to 5 meters high. The energy generated would be transported by a 3.8-kilometer power line along the P-670R route, an inland route that connects the valley with Purén, in the Araucanía Region, being the logical route of connectivity with the other two projects that Hidrowatt has in mind.

The key characters in this story are various. One of them is Jhon Araneda Peña. His role has been to lobby between the company, public institutions and local governments. In addition to dedicating himself to “selling” the project to the communities, he is the “owner” of the water rights of the Provoque River. He has also been in charge of lobbying with Mininco forestry, a company that is the "legal" owner of the land on which Hidrowatt wants to build the pass-through plant, making it clear that the project is being sold as a supposed bridge For the energy development of a territory, it is nothing more than a business between individuals and the Chilean state to consolidate the extractivist model in the area. This is demonstrated by the public information that can be obtained from the page of the National Geology and Mining Service -Sernageomin- where it is observed thatHidrowatt owns mineral exploration rights in this sector of the Nahuelbuta mountain range.

The other character is Patricio Sandoval, lobbyist and partner of the consulting firm C&S Limitada, which provides services to Hidrowatt. In October 2016, Sandoval arrived at the headquarters of the San Ernesto neighborhood council, a sector located to the east of the valley, with the intention of explaining the hydroelectric project. On that occasion, Mapuche community members and residents of the sector summoned him to withdraw from the territory. Sandoval, cornered, had to suspend his exhibition and withdraw from the valley: not before signing a document in which he stated that "Hidrowatt would not build any power station in the Elicura valley.

The key characters in this story are various. In addition to dedicating himself to “selling” the project to the communities, he is the “owner” of the water rights of the Provoque River

“It was a symbolic question. He signed that paper to be able to leave the valley, because the people did not let him speak and made it clear that we did not want any power station in our territory, much less speak with the company, ”recalls Pamela Rayman, Werken from Lov Elicura.

It is in this context that the Elicurache decided to start the legal fight against the company of José María Grugues and the public institutions involved, deciding together to file a protection appeal in the Concepción Court of Appeals and thus stop the resolution of the SEA.

It was in March 2017, when four protection appeals were presented in favor of the communities of the Valley and its territory and against the Spanish company and the BIOBIO Environmental Assessment Service (SEA), summoning the corresponding entities to generate the protection guarantees for the Provoque estuary and the Elicura and Calebu rivers. Three of these appeals were declared inadmissible. This is how the Court explained the ruling: “the object of protection is to restore the rule of law when it has been violated by arbitrary or illegal acts or omissions that threaten, disturb or deprive the legitimate exercise of any of the guarantees specifically numbered in the Article 20 of the Political Constitution of the Republic, leaving the other legal actions safe. That, in consideration of the foregoing, the claim of the claimants, due to its characteristics, must be resolved at the headquarters of the new institutional framework in environmental matters, that is, by the Environmental Courts, all the more so if there is no glimpse in the present case violation of a right that must be reestablished through the protection action attempted (…) ”.

The fourth protection appeal, sponsored by UDI Mayor Mauricio Lebrecht, was rejected because it was filed outside the legal deadline.

“It was resolved by the Court of Appeals in a rather careless and negligent attitude. He has said that he does not declare himself competent to know these types of issues, which we consider unacceptable since submitting certain projects to environmental impact studies is mandatory, and the Mapuche communities in the area must be consulted according to indigenous standards which states in ILO Convention 169 that it is a mandatory norm for the Chilean state, ”explained lawyer Pablo Rivas, advisor to Lov Elicura Mapu.

After the indolent response of the Court, the Lov Elicura Mapu together with the lonko Miguel Leviqueo, filed an appeal for reconsideration that was also rejected and later, on May 31, a complaint in the Superintendency of the Environment in the city of Concepción you are looking for, according to lawyer Pablo Rivas:

“Report the illegal fractionation of a 6 MW project, which needs to be reviewed in terms of its environmental and socio-cultural impact in the Elicura valley, something that has not been done because Hidrowatt has permission to execute only a part of this great project, which is the Gustavito power plant, hiding behind this division the real magnitude of the intervention and bypassing the instances of evaluation and environmental impact of our legislation that dictates that any project of more than 3MW must pass through the impact and evaluation filters. We also want to deliver to the superintendency, the antecedents that show, in fact, the harmful effects of these dams on the ecosystem of the territory, on the Mapuche culture and on the people who live in the valley ”.

Similar words had the lonko of the Elicura Valley and lonko mayor of the Council of Lonkos of the Province of Arauco, Miguel Leviqueo.

“This is one more step that the natives of the Elicura valley are doing. As a Mapuche authority, I will accompany the young people in this fight they are giving against this Hidrowatt company, a project that does not benefit us at all, it only brings us destruction. We will continue to protect our natural resources, as I have already said, everything that threatens nature, against the earth, will have conflict. We are going to continue working in this fight, defending ourselves, because as Mapuche, as Kimche, as authority, we must fight for our territory ”.

At present, this complaint is in full investigation, however the complainants believe that in this instance they will also obtain negative results, projecting as the last step on this front, the judicialization of the conflict in the Valdivia Environmental Court.

“This is one more way where we can fight against companies that insist on looting our people and their natural resources. The legal path will not be the only way to fight Hidrowatt, because as we have already seen, the Winka state and justice are not present in the defense of our territories because it allows these companies to enter our Lov so that they continue to do so. rich at the cost of our impoverishment. Elicura Valley will continue to fight. We are already plagued by foresters, with Hidrowatt it won't be the same ”, says Pamela Rayman.

Pending legal action in the Valdivia Environmental Court, Hidrowatt does not cease its efforts to try to convince the valley community to approve the project. In September this year the company held a meeting in the Municipality of Contulmo with Mayor Mauricio Lebrech, where the Biobio Energy Seremía also participated, according to Aukin.

The information can be verified in thepageof Info Lobby in which the Spanish José María Grugues, the lobbyist and businessman of the consulting firm C&S Limitada Patricio Sandoval and Karina Meneses participated. However, this registry does not mention the officials of the Energy Seremía.

In October, in a conversation with some Mapuche leaders and young people, the municipal administrator of Contulmo Óscar Muñoz, mentioned that in the meeting described above, Hidrowatt would try to convince the communities and residents of the valley to accept the construction of the dams to change of a percentage of the profits generated by the project.

“Now they will try to bribe us, but as young Mapuche we will oppose this project anyway. Maybe they will be able to buy some leaders, but we hope our people will benorcheand do not be fooled by the money of these companies that will only bring destruction to our territory ", Rayman closes.

But that is not all. On November 22, the mayor of Contulmo Mauricio Lebrecht, without acknowledging receipt of the repeated times that the Elicurache expressed their refusal to sit down to talk with the Spanish company, summoned the leaders of the communities and the lonko of the valley to a meeting which turned out to be the presentation of the Hidrowatt project. Even the Spanish José María Grugues and the lobbyist Patricio Sandoval were present. This presentation was not carried out since, upon learning that Hidrowatt intended to talk with the inhabitants of the valley, pu lamuen ka pu peñi confronted Grugues, Sandoval and the municipal authorities. Full of anger and indignation, they made it clear that there was nothing to talk about with them, that the project that they wanted to attack pu leubu they knew perfectly well and that they would do whatever was necessary so that it was not executed in the territory. Grugues and Sandoval were verbally expelled from the territory by young people from Lov Elicura Mapu, community leaders, and by the Lonko Miguel and José Leviqueo.

Eli's stone continues to hold.

ByNatascha Olivera

Source: MapuExpress


Video: The dam dilemma: how to balance hydropower, rivers u0026 people. Jessie Moravek. TEDxFulbrightGlasgow (July 2021).