A multi-million dollar dam project in the south of Chile has been suspended by a court, after being approved in May with heavy backing from president Sebastian Pinera.
Following objections by legislators and environmentalists, the court has ruled that it needs to review the approval process.
It is not clear how long it will take the court to decide on the matter.
The project is about the building of five dams on two rivers in the sparsely-populated Aysen area of the country’s Patagonia : two on the river Baker (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk) and three on the river Pascua which both run into the Pacific.
The rivers drain lakes in an area famous for its rugged beauty, such as a landscape of glaciers, ice-fields, mountains and fjords.
According to the government the dams are needed in order to meet the country’s increasing demand for electricity, but environmentalists say the project will damage the fragile ecology and the tourist potential in the area.
And environmentalists also say the energy produced will be used mainly for Chile’s mining industry.
A joint venture between Chilean company and a Spanish-owed one, the dam project is designed to generate 2,750MW of power and will cost some $3bn
According to the company, HidroAysen, the project “represents a cost-effective, sustainable, reliable, and ecologically viable source of energy”.
It also argues that even though it involves flooding some 60 sq km (23 sq miles), the project will provide 4,000 jobs at its peak.