The new Chaitén – nice and green in Pumalín? 16 November 2008Posted by admin in Chaitén, Chile, eruptions.
Tags: Chaitén, Chile, South America, volcanic eruptions
While we continue to await the Chilean Government’s announcement on the future of Chaitén – promised for mid- or late November, or at the latest by the end of the year (but see below) – an article in La Nación indicates that the idea of rebuilding the town in its present position has been quietly abandoned, and that a number of possiblities for the location of a new Chaitén are under active consideration. One of these, however, is using the northern part of the present town, which has not been so badly affected by the volcanic eruption, as the nucleus for new development. Given that the whole of Chaitén is built on the mudflows left by previous eruptions of the volcano, this would be a very bad idea indeed. The reasons why should need no emphasizing in the week when we have been recalling the fate of the Colombian town of Armero.
The article – Chaitén podría refundarse en Pumalín (‘Chaitén may be refounded in Pumalín’) – reports that three options are being considered for the relocation of the volcano-devastated town of Chaitén: using a site of 90 hectares adjacent to the town of Santa Bárbara, 15km north of the original location of Chaitén; rebuilding in the less-damaged northern sector of the present town of Chaitén; or moving the town another few kilometres north to a new site that would fall within the boundaries of the Pumalín Park (Parque Pumalín) nature reserve. It is this last option, as the headline suggests, that is attracting the most attention in Chile.
Parque Pumalín is a privately-owned nature reserve, established by the United States businessman Douglas Tompkins and run, as the Pumalín website puts it, ‘as a type of National Park with public access under a private initiative’. The Pumalín project has been controversial, because of its size (3000 square kilometres or so), its private nature and US connections (Tompkins remains a US citizen), the fact it almost divides Chile in two, and the alleged heavy-handedness of the Pumalín authorities in some of their dealings with local residents and communities. More recently, Tompkins’s apparent lack of interest in the Chaitén eruption and its effects has caused resentment, as La Nación reports:
It may be recalled that the Chaitén community has been surprised and hurt because since the eruption – which was last May – el norteamericano [i.e. Tompkins] has not issued any statement, despite being a near neighbour of the town.
The report notes that the Fundación Pumalín has publicly rejected the idea of relocating Chaitén to somewhere within the boundaries of the park, but that this remains the favoured option for the Government:
Although the Fundación Pumalín denied talks with the Government and ruled out any possible location in the interior of the park, sources within La Moneda [i.e. Chilean Government sources] revealed that this is not only one of the three options for the relocation of the city, but also one of the most likely alternatives.
The Chilean Government has said that it wants the new Chaitén to be ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’, and undoubtedly sees this concept finding a natural home within Pumalín. ‘It is clear that [the new town] should be located north of where Chaitén is today’, Minister of Public Works Sergio Bitar is quoted as saying, ‘and that the opportunity should be realized to construct a pioneering city, sustainable and organic’. The possibility that if the park is to be the location for the new town Fundación Pumalín might foot some of the bill may also be an attraction from the Chilean Government’s point of view.
Meanwhile, Presidential Delegate Paula Narváez seems to be suggesting that the final decision on Chaitén’s future will not now be taken until late January: apparently the receipt of ‘two further reports’, due to be delivered by the end of January 2009, will give ‘all the background necessary to settle the issue’. The President of the Republic will then make her decision.
La Nación‘s map of the options for the location of the rebuilt Chaitén can be seen at this link.
For all our Chaitén coverage: Chaitén « The Volcanism Blog.
Chaitén podría refundarse en Pumalín – La Nación, 14 November 2008 (Spanish)
Global Volcanism Program: Chaitén – summary information for Chaitén (1508-41)
ONEMI, Oficina Nacional de Emergencia – Chilean government emergencies office (Spanish)
SERNAGEOMIN – Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (Spanish)
Erupción del Volcán Chaitén – extensive coverage of the Chaitén eruption