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South America Environment, Science &Technology, and Health Newsletter Edition 104

by Stoner, Larissa A — last modified Jan 10, 2013 10:04 AM
Contributors: rhessmiller
South America ESTH Newsletter 2007 In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only.
Agriculture: A Brazilian Engineer Uses Solar Power to Make the Desert Bloom. Water Issues: Brazil: Bishop Fasts Again for Sao Francisco River. Forests: Brazil Creates Voluntary Fund To Preserve The Amazon; Brazil: Amazon Deforestation Continues To Drop, But Is Still High; Cost of Zeroing Amazon Deforestation: USD $257 Billion. Fishing & Marine Conservation: Fish Virus Worries Workers in Chile’s Salmon Industry; Argentina: Whale Deaths Double; Chile’s Surfer Activists Celebrate Environmental Victory. Science & Technology: Brazil, Argentina Launch Space Rocket. Infrastructure Development: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile Agree On Road Corridor Linking Pacific, Atlantic; Brazil: Plans to Spend US$10.1 Billion on Amazon Iron Mine; UNICEF: Lack Of Basic Sanitation Will Leave Brazil Short Of Millenium Goals; Chavez, Allies Launch Bank of the South as Alternative to US Backed Lenders. Mining & Other Extractive Industries: Green Gold (Oro Verde) Initiative Calls for Responsible Small-Scale Mining in Colombia; Argentina and Chile to Sign Huge Andean Shared Mining Project; Brazilian Foundation Leads Protest against Canadian Gold Corporation Kinross. Energy: Brazilian Consortium Wins Auction to Build Amazon Dam after Protests Delay Bidding; Sugar Cane Threatens Brazilian Savannah; Venezuela, Brazil Pledge Energy Cooperation as Chavez and Lula da Silva Deepen Ties; Wind Energy Farm Launched in Chile. Climate Change: Climate Change a Killer for Chile’s Antarctic Penguins; Fleming Glacier in Danger in Chile’s Antarctica.

South America Environment, Science &Technology, and Health News
NOTE:  The South America ESTH Newsletter is now also available on the Intranet -
Edition #104.  Also attached is a calendar of up-coming ESTH events across the Western Hemisphere.  The information contained was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts.  Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so.

A Brazilian Engineer Uses Solar Power to Make the Desert Bloom
DEC. 10, 2007 – A report in Newsweek carries the successful story of a Brazilian Eco-Engenho (small company specializing in renewable energy), led by engineer José Roberto Fonseca, working in one of the most arid regions in northeastern Brazil.  Baixas (in the state of Alagoas) is the poorest zone of São José da Tapera, one of the most desperate municipalities on the continent, where the average monthly wage is $24, half the population is illiterate and the human-development index of .56 rivals that of the most wretched regions of Africa.   So when José Roberto Fonseca told the farmers of Baixas they could use solar energy to grow their way out of poverty, most thought he was crazy.  In the sertão, or semidesert, the sun has mostly been a curse, withering crops and baking the topsoil.  Using a solar-powered desalinator, Fonseca was able to help farmers grow hydroponic gardens of peppers and create a market for spices and condiments.  Currently, eleven families in Baixias are making a good part of their income from peppers.
Source – Newsweek
Water Issues
Brazil: Bishop Fasts Again for Sao Francisco River

DEC. 11, 2007 - Brazilian Catholic Bishop Luiz Cappio has entered the third week of his hunger strike against the diversion of water from the Sao Francisco river, in the arid northeast of the country, amid expressions of support.  The Franciscan bishop, 61, is prepared to continue his fast to the death, Ruben Siqueira, of the Land Pastoral Commission (CPT), told IPS in a telephone interview from Sobradinho, a small village in the northeastern state of Bahia on the banks of the Sao Francisco, where Cappio is fasting and praying. A communiqué from Cappio’s diocese of Barra, in Bahía state, says that the hunger strike will only end when Lula "finally shelves the initiative" which, according to the government, seeks to provide water for 12 million people in the semi-arid northeast of Brazil, the country’s poorest region. The project involves the building of two canals to remove and redistribute water from the river, and will cost some 3.6 billion dollars.  Cappio is continuing his hunger strike, taking only filtered river water from the Sao Francisco with a little sugar. His chapel has become a centre of pilgrimage. Two years ago, Cappio called off his first hunger strike after 11 days, when the government promised more public debate and consultations before undertaking the project, after sending a representative to talk to the bishop.  Dialogue began, followed by the elections in which Lula won a second term of office. "Then, in spite of letters from the bishop and every possible action, nothing was decided, and the government resumed work on the project," Siqueira said.
Source – International Press Service
NOTE FROM THE HUB: A federal judge ordered the suspension of the Sao Francisco project, on the basis of technical arguments against a certificate of hydrological capacity issued by the National Council of Water Resources (CNRH). The military engineer corps in charge of the work has halted excavations and studies of the terrain until January 07. Still D. Cappio did not end his hunger strike. After 23 days of a hunger strike against the major project to divert Sao Francisco River waters throughout the Northeast Region, Bishop D. Luiz Cappio fainted and was taken to a hospital. The same day the Supreme Federal Court (STF) removed an injunction and rejected a request by the Public Prosecutors Office against the project.  See most recent update
Brazil Creates Voluntary Fund To Preserve The Amazon
DEC. 13, 2007 - Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva presented at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali a proposal for the creation of the Fund for the Protection and Conservation of the Brazilian Amazon. Under the proposal, the fund would accept voluntary international donations for Brazil to meet “internal and verifiable” goals of deforestation prevention. According to Minister Silva, there is an expectation of USD $150 million in donations, which would be administrated by the federal development bank BNDES. Also according to the minister, there is already a USD $100 million donation from Norway. Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim did not discuss how much his country would donate, but said that keeping tropical forests standing would help reduce emissions and have the added value of protecting biodiversity.
Source – O Estado de Sao Paulo (no link)
Brazil: Amazon Deforestation Continues To Drop, But Is Still High
DEC. 07, 2007 -  The deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon forest has dropped for three consecutive years – in the period between 2006 and 2007, 11,224 square kilometers have been deforested, or 20% less than in the 2005-2006 period. This result ties with the 1991 deforestation, which is considered the year when there was least deforestation since the measurements began. Critics say that past reductions have been prompted by a drop in international commodity prices, which reduced the economic pressure for deforestation. According to the critics, which include Greenpeace, current figures predict an acceleration of deforestation in 2008.
Source – Public Affairs, US Embassy Brasilia.  Original Source: O Estado de Sao Paulo
Cost of Zeroing Amazon Deforestation: USD 257 Billion
DEC. 03, 2007 - Zeroing the deforestation of the Amazon over 10 years and maintaining it for another 20 would cost USD 257 billion, according to a report prepared by U.S. and Brazilian researchers that was presented at the Climate Conference in Bali.  According to the report, that would be the “opportunity cost” of the other economic activities that would take place in the region with current deforestation trends.  The U.S. Woods Hole Research Center and Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) participated in the study.
Source – Public Affairs, US Embassy Brasilia
Fishing & Marine Conservation
Fish Virus Worries Workers in Chile’s Salmon Industry
DEC. 10, 2007 - As the list of Chilean salmon farms officially infected with Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly evident that the industry’s ongoing problems with the illness are far from over.   Six months ago scientists confirmed the presence of ISA on at least two Chilean fish farms – both operated by Norwegian-owned Marine Harvest, the world’s largest farmed salmon company.  ISA is a highly contagious virus that can be lethal to fish but does not affect humans. The situation confirms complaints that NGOs like Oceana, Ecoceanos, the Pure Salmon Campaign have been making for years – Chile’s salmon industry is blind to the environmental damage it is causing.  “ISA is the tip of the iceberg,” said Juan Carlos Cárdenas, director Santiago-based Ecoceanos. “It reflects all of the industry’s problems – the lack of proper management, a policy that’s focused exclusively on expansion and production without taking into account what (the environment) can really handle.”
Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Argentina: Whale Deaths Double

DEC. 10, 2007 - The unusual spike in the number of dead whales found on the beaches of the southern Argentine province of Chubut in October and November has caused concern at the Whale Conservation Institute (ICB).  The annual average in recent years was about 40 whales, but it more than doubled to 85 this year, ICB coordinator Roxana Schteinbarg told Tierramérica.  Some experts attribute the phenomenon to a health problem afflicting the species, while others suggest environmental factors, but it can't be determined for sure until test results are in, she said.  For the past five years, ICB and other groups have been conducting the southern right whale monitoring program. The species numbers about 5,300 in the waters around the Valdés Peninsula, on the Chubut coast.
Source – Tierramerica
Chile’s Surfer Activists Celebrate Environmental Victory
DEC. 01, 2007 - Chile’s most revered surfers and their friends recently celebrated the withdrawal of the water company ESSBIO’s proposed pipelined project in the coastal town of Pichilemu. The project would have channeled the community’s wastewater – which now gathers in a nearby fetid lagoon – straight through the town’s principal beach for deposit 1 kilometer into the ocean.  Steady community opposition, coupled with the international attention brought to the issue by surfer activists, succeeded in convincing the company and local government to scrap the project and invest in a proper water treatment facility.  With this campaign victory for Chile behind them, the international non governmental organization (NGO) Save the Waves Coalition (STW) and Chile-based non-profit Proplaya will continue to battle Chile’s pulp producing giant, Celulosa Arauco (CELCO) in Cobquecura, with the hopes of promoting a healthy ocean ecosystem, while preserving this special spot for future generations of surfers.

Source – Santiago Times (no link)
Science & Technology
Brazil, Argentina Launch Space Rocket
DEC. 16, 2007 -- Brazil and Argentina successfully launched a rocket into space on December 16 in the first joint space mission by the two South American nations.  The VS30 rocket, which carried experiments from both countries, blasted off from Brazil's Barreira do Inferno launch center in northern Rio Grande do Norte state, Brazil's Space Agency said in a statement.  The rocket reached an altitude of 75 miles and its journey -- which lasted 9 minutes, 25 seconds -- was considered ''perfect,'' the agency said.  Liftoff was delayed several times since December 12 by bad weather.  The mission was the fruit of a 1998 accord between space agencies in Brazil, which has launched rockets into space before, and Argentina, which has relied on other nations to send up satellites.
Source – The New York Times
Infrastructure Development
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile Agree On Road Corridor Linking Pacific, Atlantic
DEC. 17, 2007 -- Bolivia, Brazil and Chile have signed an agreement to create a corridor linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, according to reports.  Under the agreement signed by the presidents of the three countries on December 16, the road link will become operational in 2009.  The Bolivia stretch of the road totals 1,600 km, 75 percent of which is ready for use. The three unfinished parts that link Santa Cruz to Puerto Suarez, Oruro to Pisiga, and Santa Matias to Concepcion require USD $415 million, USD $78 million and USD $260 in investment, respectively.  In Chile, two projects are under plan -- a 192-km road starting in Arica and another 216-km stretch linking Iquique to its eastern border with Bolivia.  Brazil will invest nearly USD $133 to refurbish a stretch of highway that is already in use. A total of 2,225 km of existing road will be re-profiled as part of this corridor.
Source – China View
Brazil: Plans to Spend US$10.1 Billion on Amazon Iron Mine
DEC. 12, 2007 -  Compania Vale do Rio Doce, the world's largest iron-ore producer, said it will spend US$10.1 billion to construct the Serra Sul mine in Brazil's Amazon (Para State) to meet rising demand from Chinese steelmakers.  The mine will produce 90 million metric tons a year after opening in the first half of 2012 Serra Sul would be the world's second-largest iron-ore mine after the company's Carajas mine.  Vale, already supplying more than a third of the world's iron-ore exports, said it is developing more new projects than any other mining company and will spend US$59 billion in the next five years to build them and expand existing sites. Prices of iron ore sold on spot markets has more than doubled to about US$100 a metric ton in the past year.  Vale also disclosed plans to spend US$2.21 billion to develop the Maquine-Bau mine, scheduled to open in 2011 and produce 25 million tons of iron ore annually.
Source – Bloomberg
UNICEF: Lack Of Basic Sanitation Will Leave Brazil Short Of Millenium Goals
DEC. 12, 2007 - Brazil’s slowness in increasing access to basic sanitation services to its population – the sewer collection and treatment infrastructure reached 71% of the population in 1990 and increased to just 75% in 2004 – will stand in the way of reaching the UN Millennium Goals by 2015, says the “Progress for Children” report unveiled by UNICEF. On the positive side, Brazil has had a good performance in reducing child mortality and malnutrition and in increasing school attendance.
Source – Public Affairs, US Embassy Brasilia.  Original source: O Globo
Chavez, Allies Launch “Bank of the South” as Alternative to US Backed Lenders
DEC. 10, 2007 - Hugo Chavez and leaders of six other South American nations launched a regional development bank that they tout as the continent's alternative to U.S.-influenced international lenders.  With as much as US$7 billion in expected startup capital, backers say the Banco del Sur, or Bank of the South, will offer Latin American countries loans with fewer strings attached than those given by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or the Inter-American Development Bank.  Officials say it will dispense loans for projects from road-building to anti-poverty programs and regional integration plans.  "It's a very interesting initiative which I think expresses the desire to find stronger cooperation between Latin American governments," the World Bank's chief economist for Latin America, Augusto de la Torre, said in a recent interview. "As far as the World Bank is concerned, this new initiative is not perceived as a competitor."
Source - The Associated Press
Mining & Other Extractive Industries
Oro Verde (Green Gold) Initiative Calls for Responsible Small-Scale Mining in Colombia
Inspired by the success of fair-trade tea and coffee, the Oro Verde initiative worked with local communities in the Choco region of Colombia to develop a set of environmental and social criteria for small-scale gold mining including reduction in mercury use and promotion of education and community development.  With the higher price miners receive from Oro Verde for sustainably produced gold, they are working to restore degraded areas and establish conservation zones within community territories.  Almost 200 Afro-Colombian mining families have signed up under the initiative to date.  Internationally, the Association of Responsible Mining (ARM), an independent, multi-national initiative based in Colombia, is also using Oro Verde’s experiences to develop a framework for responsible small-scale mining that can be applied in other regions of the world.
Source – Green Gold Initiative
Argentina and Chile to Sign Huge Andean Shared Mining Project
NOV. 29, 2007 - The governments of Chile and Argentina signed an agreement pushing forward the development of another massive bi-national mining project.  The deal is intended to hurry approval of work at “Las Flechas” mineral deposits by using existing treaties and protocols to govern its construction.  Under the agreement, the 1.5 billion US dollars project, straddling Chile's Region III and Argentina's San Juan Province, would fall under the scope of the nearly ten-year old Treaty of Integration and Mining.  Investment at “Las Flechas” is a joint venture between the Japanese Jogmec and Brazilian CVRD mining companies.  Jogmec has a large division centered on making mine production less damaging to the environment. However, CVRD has come under criticism in the past for pollutants emitted at some of its plants.
Source – MercoPress
Brazilian Foundation Leads Protest against Canadian Gold Corporation Kinross
OCT. 20, 2007 - Acangaú foundation, a Brazilian non-profit organization, published an independent report on the environmental risks of Kinross Gold Corporation's mine in Paracatu, a town near the Brasilia (220km), population 75,000 people.  The report calls attention to some worrying health, social and environmental impacts of Kinross' large scale open pit mine located at the outskirts of Paracatu.  Citizens inflicted by the health and environmental losses caused by the gold mine in Paracatu are requesting that Kinross take mitigatory and compensatory actions in order to make its expansion project environmentally sustainable, socially fair, and thus acceptable by the people of Paracatu.
Source – Acangau Foundation
Brazilian Consortium Wins Auction to Build Amazon Dam after Protests Delay Bidding
DEC. 10, 2007 - A Brazilian consortium won an auction to build and operate a major dam (Santo Antonio) in the Amazon rain forest.  Consorcio Madeira Energetica, a group that includes participation by big construction company Norberto Odebrecht SA, beat out two other consortiums with participation by Spain's Endesa SA and the Franco-Belgian utility Suez.  The auction was delayed for hours while riot police removed about 80 protesters who stormed the Brasilia offices of Brazilian electric power agency Aneel.  Brazil's Movement of Dam-Affected People organized the protest along with groups representing landless workers, saying the 3,150 megawatt dam and another one nearby could force 10,000 people from their remote rural homes.  Environmentalists say the dam could harm a pristine part of the Amazon, but the government says it is needed to help prevent electricity shortages in Latin America's largest country.  In May, the government is expected open bidding on the Jirau dam — along the same stretch of the Madeira River as the Santo Antonio dam— which is expected to generate 3,326 megawatts of energy. Together the two dams are expected to supply 8 percent of the country's energy needs.
Source - The Associated Press
Sugar Cane Threatens Brazilian Savannah
DEC. 05, 2007 - While all eyes are turned to the Amazon, the expansion of sugar cane crops throughout Brazil threatens another delicate ecosystem: the Brazilian cerrado savannah.  According to a study prepared by Brazilian NGO ISPN, 47 new ethanol plants are planned for construction in cerrado areas of the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais over the next few years.  The NGO estimates that 22,000 square kilometers of cerrado a year could be destroyed as a result of the expansion of the agricultural border over the next few years.
Source – Public Affairs, US Embassy Brasilia.  Original source: Folha de Sao Paulo
Venezuela, Brazil Pledge Energy Cooperation As Chavez and Silva Deepen Ties
DEC. 14, 2007 - Venezuela and Brazil signed accords pledging to boost trade and link their economies through energy cooperation as presidents Hugo Chavez and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva seek to deepen ties.  Chavez said Venezuela will provide 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day to a refinery being built in Brazil by the two countries' state-run oil companies — Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) and Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).  Petrobras will have a 60 percent stake in the refinery in the state of Pernambuco, with PDVSA holding 40 percent under an agreement signed by officials.  It was one of 12 commercial accords finalized after Chavez and Silva met privately.  Petrobras also is to help quantify oil reserves in Venezuela's lucrative Orinoco River basin.
Source - The Associated Press
Wind Energy Farm Launched in Chile
DEC. 11, 2007 – Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet launched on December 6 the first wind farm connected to Chile’s national electricity network.  With this endeavor, Chile is closer to reaching its goal of having 15 percent of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2010.  Currently, only 2.4 percent of the country’s energy is renewable.  The wind farm in Canela, located in the region of Coquimbo, will generate 18.5 MW.  According to the company responsible for creating the wind farm, the project will avoid the emission of 27 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  It will also help diversify sources of energy in a country which imports two-thirds of its energy and is predicted to double its energy consumption over the next ten years.
Source – SciDev

Climate Change
Climate Change a Killer for Chile’s Antarctic Penguins
DEC. 12, 2007 - Global climate change is posing a major threat to the various species of penguin that breed in Antarctica, according to a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).   The world’s South Pole, the group claims, is heating up at five times the global rate. As a result, Antarctic sea ice has receded by some 40 percent in just the last quarter century. Temperature changes, furthermore, have been noted at up to 3,000 meters below the ocean’s surface.  That melting process has been particularly bad news for the four penguin species– the Adélie, Emperor, Chinstrap and Gentoo – that breed in Antarctica.  Part of the problem is direct habit loss, as portions of sea ice on which many penguins breed are breaking off earlier each season. The warming process has also reduced the population of krill, on which penguins depend for food.

Source – Santiago Times (no link)
Fleming Glacier in Danger in Chile’s Antarctica
DEC. 10, 2007 - Scientists from the Center of Scientific Studies (CECS), the Antarctic Chilean Institute, and the Air Force recently reported last week that Fleming Glacier, located in the Antarctic Peninsula, is showing signs of receding.   With a land mass of 6,200 square kilometers and two kilometers thick, Fleming Glacier is one of the largest in the region.
Aerial photographs of the glacier’s surface reveal cracks that are so large that small planes could fit into them. Furthermore, numerous ice floes border the edge of the glacier – a sign that the ice mass is splintering.  Even more alarming, however, is the rate at which the glacier is receding.  In the 1970s, the glacial mass moved between two and four meters per day, but today the scientists say it is moving four to eight meters per day.
Source – Santiago Times (no link)

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