24 September 2005

FISHERMAN STOP CELCO SCIENTISTS

A team of engineers was run off by fishermen Monday after pulp and paper manufacturer Celulosa Arauco y Constitución (Celco) announced plans to dump industrial waste in their fishing grounds. The team was surveying potential dump sites near the coast of Corral in southern Chile when they were confronted by the concerned fishers and forced to leave the area.

The fishermen were protesting Celco’s decision to pipe industrial waste into regional waters, fearing pollution levels would damage the local fishing industry. Attempts to install pipelines from the plant to the Pacific Ocean were originally defeated by local groups in 1996, causing the company to change plans and route its effluent into the Cruces River near the city of Valdivia.

Ten years later, Valdivian community groups blamed the company for contaminating the city’s drinking water and polluting the nearby Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary, decimating large populations of black-necked swans. Celco closed the plant on June 8 in response to the outcry.

Celco reopened on Aug. 12 after President Ricardo Lagos gave his approval to route the waste to the ocean. The approval has caused a lot of criticism from environmentalists, politicians and academics, and now seems have sparked locals to take action into their own hands.