Addressing Real World Issues
Edited by Robert Stimson and Kingsley E. Haynes
Chapter 21: Hydropower in Chilean Patagonia: evaluating socio-economic conditions for resettlement and/or compensation of rural inhabitants
Chilean economic development is facing structural challenges that can be addressed from an applied geography perspective. An important aspect is the electric power generation and distribution complex. Hydropower is a preferred carbon-neutral alternative source to fossil fuels. But there is a lack of policy for land use that would allow strategic decision-making that integrates land use and environmental factors. A number of hydropower investment projects are planned for Chilean Patagonia. Because of the nature of the dam generation system, when large areas are flooded, people living in surrounding areas may be affected. Chilean law requires an environmental assessment study for big investment projects with the report presented to the ministries responsible for environmental approval. To do that, a baseline of the impacted area needs be establish the pre-project conditions This chapter refers to a project proposed by the HidroAysen company which contracted the Institute of Geography at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile as a consultant to build the baseline, and in particular to evaluate the territory to be affected in terms of land productivity (the area is mainly agricultural) and settlement conditions, and thus to define the compensation for the inhabitants. A feature of the Patagonian region is its heterogeneity in terms of morphology, available resources and life systems, and consequently production capacity is generally variable. As an example, a soil class I hectare of land will not produce the same amount of apples as a hectare of soil class V under the same other environmental conditions, and as a result, 2 acres of land are not necessarily able to disburse the same economic benefit to their respective owners or managers of production.
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