A project to install a huge deposit of oil field waste pits has triggered a crisis in the north of Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, and brought the debate on the environmental impact of extractive industries back to the forefront in this Southern Cone country.
The Chilean government’s approval of a hydroelectric dam in the Patagonia wilderness has rekindled the debate on the sustainability and efficiency of large-scale hydropower plants and whether they contribute to building a cleaner energy mix.
Family farmers in Chile are pushing for the reinstatement of water as a public good, to at least partially solve the shortages caused by the privatisation of water rights by the military dictatorship in 1981.
In the wake of the fire that destroyed more than 34,000 hectares of forests, some of them ancient, in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, the authorities will have to put out flames that are no less serious: the new socio-environmental catastrophe that will emerge from the ashes.
In Argentina they call it “yeil”, the hispanicised version of “shale”. But while these unconventional gas and oil reserves are seen by many as offering a means to development and a route towards energy self-sufficiency, others believe the term should fall into disuse because the global trend is towards clean, renewable sources of energy.
This small town in southern Argentina is nearly a century old, but the unconventional fossil fuel boom is forcing it to basically start over, from scratch. The wave of outsiders drawn by the shale fuel fever has pushed the town to its limits, while the plan to turn it into a “sustainable city of the future” is still only on paper.
Unconventional oil and gas reserves in Vaca Muerta in southwest Argentina hold out the promise of energy self-sufficiency and development for the country. But the fracking technique used to extract this treasure from underground rocks could be used at a huge cost.
Production here has skyrocketed so fast that for now the installations of the YPF oil company at the Loma Campana deposit in southwest Argentina are a jumble of interconnected shipping containers.
In few places in Chile are women the pillars of community, grassroots rural and environmental movements as they are in the southern wilderness region of Patagonia. It is a social role that history forced them to assume in this remote part of the country.
The people of Patagonia in southern Chile are working to make the Aysén region a “life reserve”. Neighbouring Argentina, across the border, is a historic ally in this remote wilderness area which is struggling to achieve sustainable development and boost growth by making use of its natural assets.
The southern region of Aysén in Chile’s Patagonian wilderness has the highest energy costs in the entire country. And the regional capital, Coyhaique, is the most polluted city in the nation, even though it has huge potential for hydroelectricity and wind power.
The Chilean government rejected Tuesday the controversial HidroAysén project for the construction of five hydroelectric dams on rivers in the south of the country. The decision came after years of struggle by environmental groups and local communities, who warned the world of the destruction the dams would wreak on the Patagonian wilderness.