Positive Environment News

Chilean Indians win partial victory against dam

Date: 10-Jun-03
Country: CHILE

The ruling allows Endesa Chile (END.SN) (EOC.N), owned by Spain's Endesa (ELE.MC), to continue building the $530 million dam, Ralco, in southern Chile. The dam is 85 percent complete.

However, until a legal issue is resolved it prevents the firm from flooding an area to form an artificial lake where Pehuenche Indians live.

Environmental and Pehuenche groups have been fighting the 570 megawatt dam in the courts for more than five years, saying that flooding from the project will damage the delicate ecosystems of the forest and mountain region 310 miles (500km) from Santiago, destroy ancient burial grounds and force Indians to leave their ancestral homes.

A Santiago court questioned in May the legality of the environmental impact study that allowed the works on Ralco to begin.

"The ruling is both good and bad for us ... However we're satisfied the indigenous area cannot be flooded and the Ralco dam cannot start operations," said Roberto Celedon, lawyer representing the indigenous families fighting the project.

Endesa said it was content with Monday's ruling but declined to comment on whether or not it would appeal.

"We are studying the text of the ruling. What we are absolutely clear about is that construction will not stop," a spokesman said.

© Thomson Reuters 2003 All rights reserved

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