The following is the sixth in a series of newsletters produced by Grupo de Accion por el Biobio (Biobio Action Group - GABB), a Chilean environmental and human rights group proposing alternatives to the construction of a series of dams on the Biobio River.

ENDESA, the largest private company in Chile, is planning to construct six hydroelectric dams on the Biobio. The first of these, Pangue, is already 70% completed. ENDESA now says it will move ahead with construction of the largest of the Biobio dams, called Ralco.

Ralco would be a 155 meter-high dam with a 3,400 hectare reservoir, which would displace 700 people, including more than 500 Pehuenche Indians. The Upper Biobio, where the Ralco dam is planned, is home to the Pehuenche group of the Mapuche Indians, who maintain their traditional lifestyle. The two dams would flood over 70 km of the river valley, inundating the richly diverse forest and its wildlife.

Environmental and Indigenous rights groups oppose the project not only because of the wide scale destruction it would cause, but also because projections of Chile's future energy requirements indicate that the energy it would produce could be generated by alternative means which are more environmentally and socially sound .


(May 10, 1996)



Santiago, April 11.....The Annual Shareholders' Meeting of the Empresa Nacional de Electricidad, S.A. (ENDESA) was interrupted by leaders of the Pehuenche communities of the upper Biobio and supporters from ecological groups, who gained access to the meeting at the Teleton theatre of Santiago.

A group of 18 representatives from the Pehuenche communities travelled from the upper Biobio for the occasion. The protest was widely covered by the Chilean press. Six Pehuenche entered in the meeting and the other staged a demonstration outside the theatre, along with 50 other protesters.

Taking part in the meeting were Jose Antolin Curriao, president of the Centro Mapuche Pehuenche del Alto Biobio (CMPABB) and a leader of the community of Quepuca-Ralco, in addition to Francisca Curriao, Carmen Gloria Levi and Ricardo Gallina, also from Quepuca-Ralco, and Berta Quintreman from Ralco-Lepoy, Enrique Correa, a leader of CMPABB and the Caunicu community, and Sara Imilmaqui, a Mapuche who lives in Santiago. They were accompanied by leaders from the Biobio Action Group (GABB), the National Ecological Action Network (RENACE), and the Institute of Political Ecology (IEP).

When President Jose Yuraszeck presented the annual report, which included Ralco Dam as an important future investment, the Pehuenche and ecologists got up and approached the podium where ENDESA executives were sitting.

The action caused a disturbance and booing by the shareholders, at which time Yuraszeck suspended the session for 20 minutes. After agreeing to hear the Pehuenche leaders, the meeting was allowed to continue.

Later in the meeting, the Pehuenche told the directors of ENDESA that they would not accept being expelled from their lands, and suggested that the company invest in projects which were socially and environmentally sound.

The action was covered widely in the print and broadcast media. Chile witnessed its Pehuenche brothers face to face with ENDESA's owners, who clearly got the message of the strong opposition by the communities to the project.



Concepcion, Los Angeles.....In the coming days, environmental groups and indigenous peoples from Concepcion, Los Angeles and the upper Biobio will present a written petition to regional, provincial, and municipal authorities asking for public hearings in the two cities and in Santa Barbara-Quilaco. The meetings would have the double purpose of informing the local populations about the project and to receive their comments on the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) presented by ENDESA to CONAMA (National Environmental Council).

Despite the fact that people directly affected and organizations have until July 3 to present observations on the EIA, very few people are aware of this and few have the technical understanding required to comment on the language and context of an EIA.



Stockholm.....After months of efforts to have the Swedish government assume its share of responsibility for the situation in the upper Biobio, the Swedish Cooperation Agency - Sida- has approved funding for an independent evaluation of the Environmental Impact Study for Ralco Dam.

The Swedish government had, despite strong criticism by Chilean and Nordic NGOs, provided $28 million crowns in soft credits for building turbines for Pangue Dam. The turbines were sold by the Swedish-Norwegian company Kvaerner.

In August, 1995, GABB, along with Swedish and Norwegian NGOs, called for the suspension of the turbine sale, based upon the fact that ENDESA had certified that Pangue was an independent project and would be the only dam built in the area.

Despite the fact that the Nordic governments refused to suspend the turbine sale and failed to hold public hearings in Sweden and Norway on the Biobio situation, the awarding of funding for an independent review of the EIA, coordinated by GABB, is a sign of the concern that the issue has caused within the Swedish government.



Trapa-Trapa, Butalelbun, upper Biobio.....Executives of Gas Sur, along with a large number of government authorities, held an informational meeting on April 18 with the Pehuenche communities of Trapa-Trapa and Butalelbun, located in the Queuco valley, near the Argentine border.

One of the possible routes being planned by Gas Sur for a gas pipeline would cross the Pehuenche communities. According to press reports, the Pehuenche authorized the company to begin surveying in the zone and, in exchange, the company promised economic compensation.

Of concern is the fact that the presence of so many government officials in the meeting may signal governmental support for the alternative, over others, including another plan which would put the pipeline a little further north. The Pehuenche have not been appropriately informed regarding the importance and the risks of the project, nor have demanded sufficient compensation.



Santiago....."About 20% of the predicted demand for the period analyzed, between 1994 and 2020, could be met by the improvement of efficiency in the use of electrical energy in the country, improvements in efficiency of electrical generation, tramsmission, and distribution, development of new applications of cogeneration and broader use of new and renewable energy sources."

This is one of the important conclusions of a new study by scientists and Chilean and U.S. NGOs released on May 9. The study entitled "Efficient Use of Electricity in Chile (1994-2020)" was prepared by the Energy Research Program (PRIEN) of the Physical Sciences and Mathematics Department of the University of Chile, the International Institute for Energy Conservation (IIEC, USA - Latin America office, Santiago), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) of the U.S.

In 1993 the IIEC and NRDC had carried out a preliminary study on the potential of increased efficiency in the Chilean electrical energy sector. The new investigation went further into the final uses of energy and its costs and concrete measures which could be implemented to achieve a 20% savings in the expansion of generating capacity required, resulting in environmental and social benefits.

According to the study the energy saved was estimated to be 10.9Gwh of energy and 1670MW of potential by the year 2010 or 19.7Gwh and 3200 MW by the year 2020, which would be the equivalent of not constructing 8 or 9 thermo-electric plants or six dams the size of Ralco.



ALL SCIENTISTS AND TECHNICAL EXPERTS! Please offer your expertise to GABB as they evaluate the EIA submitted by ENDESA. This is a critical stage in the objective analysis of the Ralco project. GABB will be submitting the comments of technical experts to CONAMA, the Chilean government environmental agency.

Fax or email GABB OR IRN to receive a copy of the EIA by postal mail or email as soon as possible. Thank you for your concerned response to this great need!!


The Biobio Daily is produced by:
Grupo de Accion por el Biobio,
Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 112,
Recoleta, Santiago de Chile.
TEL: +56-2-737-1420
FAX: +56-2-777-6414

Translation and electronic distribution:
International Rivers Network
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703, USA
TEL: +510-848-1155
FAX: +510-848-1008

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