Environmental issues in Chile | Wikipedia audio article


This page covers environmental issues in Chile.==Overview==
The country of Chile is a virtual continental island bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the
west, the Andes Mountains on the east, and the Atacama Desert in the north; it is home
to several important ecoregions, such as the Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests,
a biodiversity hotspot that harbors richly endemic flora and fauna, and the Tropical
Andes, which stretches into northern Chile.There are endangered species in Chile, including
the South Andean huemul, tundra peregrine falcon, puna rhea, Chilean woodstar, ruddy-headed
goose, and green sea turtle. As of 2001, 16 species of mammals in a total
of 91 were considered endangered. Of 296 breeding bird species, 18 were threatened
with extinction. Also threatened were four types of freshwater
fish and 268 plant species.==Prominent issues==
There are a series of environmental issues in this country, with a dynamic and diversified
economy. Chile’s main environmental problems are deforestation
and the resulting soil erosion. From 1985 to 1995, Chile lost nearly 2 million
hectares of native forest; these forests were destroyed for pulp, and made way for industrial
tree farms. As a result, Chile now has the world’s largest
expanse of radiata pine tree farms and some of the world’s most endangered native forests.Air
pollution from industry and transportation and water pollution are especially acute in
urban centers. In 1996, Chile’s industrial carbon dioxide
emissions totaled 48.7 million metric tons. Untreated sewage poses the major threat to
the nation’s water quality. As of 2001, Chile had 928 cu km of renewable
water resources. While 99% of its urban dwellers have pure
drinking water, only 58% of its rural dwellers have the same access. Chile is one of the major mining countries
of the world and big-scale mining also represents an important environmental challenge. Severe water shortages affecting many local
communities were due not only to persistent drought but to structural problems in the
policies governing the exploitation of natural resources, including privatized water management;
this led to big protests.==Water pollution==
Much of Chile’s water resources are privatized due to the 1981 Water Code which created a
market based on water rights. Water is treated as an asset where once an
individual or private company receives water rights, they can choose to sell or rent water. The concentration of water resources in the
hands of a few corporations has resulted in Chile having the highest water rates in Latin
America. Nearly 90% of the water rights for hydroelectric
production are owned by three companies. There are more water rights that have been
issued than there are reserves in some parts of the country which has led to the drying
up of groundwater resources. This shortage has particularly affected the
rural and indigenous population of Chile. The mining industry has had a considerable
impact on the environment of Chile. One region in particular that been significantly
impacted is that of the Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest regions in
the world. Mining requires a large quantity of water,
with much of this water coming from groundwater supplies. Dust from mining operations can also accelerate
the melting of snow deposits on the Andean glaciers. This puts a considerable strain on snowmelt
water supplies which harms the rural communities living in the Atacama. Another source of pollution results from the
mining of lithium within some of the lakes in the region. This has the potential to affect local flamingo
population as they are reliant on the lakes as a source of shrimp.==Air pollution==
Increased economic activity has resulted in a degradation of Chile’s air quality. Santiago, the capital city of Chile, is surrounded
by mountain ranges which facilitates the accumulation of pollutants from car emissions and industrial
development over the region. Hospitals become overcrowded as a result of
respiratory related problems each year in Santiago. The air pollution in Santiago has resulted
in an average of 20,000 people suffering from respiratory problems every year. It is common to use wood for heating in the
southern portion of Chile, which tends to experience cold temperatures, as it is less
costly than gas or electricity.==Sacrifice Zone: Valparaíso==
The valparaíso Province is home to the country’s largest private and public ports, Quintero
and Valparaíso city, respectively. This area has a high concentration of polluting
industries including copper smelters, thermoelectric plants, and power plants. The Province of Valparaíso is known as a
national Sacrifice zone, having high concentrations of heavy metals and other pollutants. History
Traditionally the people of the Valparaíso Province found their living through artisanal
fishing and agriculture. In the past several decades the region’s main
economy is tourism, in 2016 there was an estimated 1.498,295 tourists visiting the area .
The largest ports in the country are located in the Valparaiso region. The port of Valparaiso is also home to the
Chilean Navy base. High rates of emissions, black and Brown carbon
(BC and BrC), come from truck and ship activities in this port. The public transportation in the city of Valparaíso
is run off of diesel fuel. Industries in the Area
Quintero Puchuncaví have 15 polluting industries in the region. Many of these industries were built in the
early 1960s and have been expanded upon since then. Industries include: Concón oil refinery run
by Empresa Nacional del Petróleo (ENAP), Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Station and Ventanas
Power Plant (the largest power plant in Chile) run by AES Gener, Ventanas Division Copper
Smelter operated by the world’s largest producer of copper Codelco, and Nehuenco Power Plant
operated by Colbún S.A. Cases of Pollution
In 2011, Escuela La Greda located in Puchuncaví, was engulfed in a chemical cloud from the
Ventanas Industrial Complex. The sulfur cloud poisoned an estimated 33
children and 9 teachers, resulting in the relocation of the school. The old location of the school is now abandoned
. In August and Septmember of 2018 there was
a public health crisis in Quintero and Puchuncaví, where over 300 people experienced illness
from toxic substances in the air, coming from the polluting industries .
Soil In areas near the polluting industries, testing
discovered high levels of selenium and copper in the soil .
The Ocean There have been several oil spills offshore
of the Valparaiso region. In 2014 there was a spill which resulted in
37,000 liters of oil being dumped into the ocean after two tankers, the LR Mimosa and
the Monobouy Terminal, connection broke. in 2015 Doña Carmela leaked 500 liters of
oil, and in 2018 the ship Ikaros leaked slurry oil .
Once a prosperous fishing economy and now, residents of Quintero Puchuncaví say no one
will buy their fish which are contaminated by heavy metals. Many fishermen have lost their jobs because
of the pollution, and fisheries have been ruined .
Reformation Efforts In 1992 there was a judicial appeal filed
by several women from Puchuncavi against ENAMI Ventanas, this was filed against the refinery
for the toxins it emitted . Chile’s National Human Rights Institute
considers Quintero and Puchuncaí a sacrifice zone, and after a pollution related health
crisis in 2018 there has been an uproar for the right to a clean and healthy environment
. This event lead to a suite against the state for violating Article 19 No. 8 of the Chilean
Constitution, the right to live in a pollution free environment, plaintiffs include FIMA
and the Terram Foundation . The case is still in courts, as of April 2019 .
Government Intervention In response to the protests against the pollution
of industries in the Valparaiso region the government created the National Commission
of the Environment (CONAMA) The Plan of Decontamination of Windows which
dealt locally with the emissions from Codelco, has been attempting to reduce emissions from
the refinery. in 1965 the Interregal Regulatory Plan of
Valparaiso stated that Quintero Bay was risky for human settlement. Despite this there has been an expansion of
industrial and housing development . Local Organizations and Movements
There are many movements in the region which have organized against the negative health
impacts of the polluting agents. ASOREFEN (former Workers’ Association Enami
Codelco Refinery Ventanas or Regional Association of Ex Officials of Enami Ventanas) is a group
of former employees of Codelco’s Ventanas refinery, organized against the company’s
pollution. Many of the people within it are referred
to as Men in Green, which is the people who were first directly exposed to the toxins,
usually from working in close contact with them. Cabildo Abierto Quintero-Puchuncavi: a local
organization fighting for the decontamination of the sacrificial zone. Women of Zones of Sacrifice in Resistance
of Puchuncaví-Quintero, an organization established in 2016 in response to health crisis’ like
the La Gerda school poisoning. These women came together with the ideology
of Latin American ecofeminism, to fight against being in a sacrifice zone .
Dunas de Ritoque is a local environmental NGO in Quintero Puchuncaví, fighting for
the preservation of the environment . Other Organizations involved in the health
crisis of the Valparaíso Province include: FIMA, Ecosystems, Institute of Political Ecology
(IEP), Oceana, CODEFF, Terram Foundation, Greenpeace and Sustainable Chile .==
See also==Valdivia Pulp Mill controversy
VLCC Metula oil spill Pascua Lama mining project
Environmental Water Quality Chile

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