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Latin America: Mapuche indigenous leader Alberto Curamil awarded Goldman Prize for environmental activism against hydropower projects that threatened water sources

“Alberto Curamil:  2019 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America, Chile” – 29 April 2019

Alberto Curamil, an indigenous Mapuche, organized the people of Araucanía to stop the construction of two hydroelectric projects on the sacred Cautín River in central Chile. The destructive projects, canceled in late 2016, would have diverted hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the river each day, harming a critical ecosystem and exacerbating drought conditions in the region. In August 2018, Curamil was arrested and remains in jail today. Colleagues believe that he was arrested because of his environmental activism…Between 2010 and 2015, at the height of a megadrought, Chile’s minister of energy announced a massive energy plan that included 40 large hydroelectric projects on Araucanía’s rivers. As part of that plan, the government and two private energy companies—SwissHydro and Agrisol—planned to build, without consulting Mapuche communities, two multi-million-dollar hydro projects on the Cautín River, in the heart of Mapuche territory. Those projects, known respectively as the Alto Cautín and the Doña Alicia, could divert over 500 million gallons of water per day from the Cautín River for power generation. Reducing the amount of water flowing in rivers greatly increases the amount of sediment in the water, harming fish and other wildlife, destroying the natural flow of water, and eroding the sensitive riparian ecosystems along the edge of the sacred Cautín River…