Chile faces a multitude of serious environmental issues, both urban and rural, including air, water, and noise pollution, garbage disposal, wildland conservation, and soil degradation.
According to a study by the nonprofit Fundación Terram, the mining, fishing, and forestry industries are the major environmental culprits. By considering externalities such as air and water pollution, for instance, it calculated that mining’s environmental damage in a given year totaled roughly half the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). Overfishing reduced the value of that sector’s resource to about half of its output between 1990 and 1998, while timber companies diminished the value of Chile’s woodlands by US$900 million, equivalent to more than 5 percent of the sector’s GDP.
The major environmental agency is the Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente (Conama), which reports directly to the president. Many conservationists, though, consider it a weak institution incapable of withstanding pressures from powerful industries.