An NGO collective focused on Chinese foreign investments published a report, claiming the Chinese owner of the Rucalhue hydroelectric dam in south Chile is ignoring environmental threats. The report also detailed human rights violations related to the project. Chinese authorities have responded only halfheartedly, while consequences seem unlikely.
Chinese investments are causing social and environmental harm in Latin America, including in Chile, according to a report by an NGO collective that analyzed nine countries in the region. The report said China has not complied with commitments made during the last review in 2018, when Beijing accepted six recommendations to guarantee human and environmental rights linked to foreign investments.
A Chilean project the report mentioned is the 90MW Rucalhue hydroelectric dam in Quilaco, Biobío region, built by CWE, a subsidiary of China Three Gorges.
According to the report, Rucalhue violates several commitments and is fiercely opposed locally.
Human and indigenous rights
Javier Arroyo, who contributed to the report, told news outlet BioBio Chile that CWE violated the right to community consultations on projects that potentially affect living in a healthy environment. Quilaco locals have repeatedly and forcefully communicated their concerns, but were ignored by CWE.
Early last year, locals occupied CWE’s facilities, but were removed after five months.
The plant would also affect 16 Mapuche heritage sites, as construction would require the removal of artifacts and landmarks from the areas.
As part of the project, around 180ha will be flooded, severely harming local vegetation, specifically endemic tree species, and threatening the habitat of around 30 local bird species and aquatic animals.
In response to the report, Chinese officials said they will start a review and reply appropriately.
News outlet Resumen reported that a study found land use would drastically change, not just in the dam’s surroundings but for up to 100km downstream. These changes were not considered in the project’s drafting phase, even though they could disrupt the regional ecosystem.
Dependence on Chinese capital
China has several investment projects like the Rucalhue dam in Chile. The country already effectively controls the electricity distribution segment, having bought CGE for US$3 billion in 2020.
All Chilean governments have wholeheartedly embraced Chinese capital in recent years. China has become Chile’s No.1 trade partner, and political and economic leaders of both countries are committed to deepening relations.
Read more about China’s involvement in Chile:
Stephanie Iancu just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and she is aiming to go on and earn a postgraduate degree in Journalism. Her main areas of interest are politics, women’s rights, human rights and culture. She is currently taking a gap year and staying in New York while interning at Chile Today.