Environmental protection, seen as a deterrent to economic growth, is excluded from the political decision-making process and limited to small, private initiatives. In 1979 a handful of Chilean and foreign firms establish a fund for scientists to produce an ecological history of Chile to help balance environmental needs with economic development.
Chile continues to depend on exports from the mining, forestry, and fishing industries. Native forests are clear-cut; rivers are dammed. The mining process emits arsenic and carbon monoxide into the air and water. Santiago becomes one of the world's smoggiest cities. No national policies or institutions exist to regulate the use of natural resources.
Government policy toward the environment shifts. Frei's government designs an Environmental Framework Law to balance environmental protection with economic growth, placing it under the authority of the National Commission for the Environment (CONAMA). But the government fails to provide the means to implement the law. Environmental regulation remains disorganized.
An environmental movement emerges to challenge Chile's export-oriented development model. Local environmental and citizen groups delay massive investments by tangling them up in administrative and legal challenges. CONAMA becomes stricter on environmental impact studies. The Central Bank begins to release updates on the environmental performance of the forestry, fishing, and mining sectors.
Native Indian communities join environmental activists, ecotourism promoters, and alternative energy advocates to protest dams and logging projects. President Lagos releases a five-year plan aimed at establishing specific goals for the reduction of vehicle and industrial emissions. Pollution from a copper mine forces the relocation of an entire northern town.
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