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South America Environment, Science &Technology, and Health Newsletter Edition 90

by Portal Web Editor last modified Jan 10, 2013 08:03 AM
Edition #90. 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. Agriculture: Zero tillage Brazil's Own Green Revolution. Health: Dengue Sparks Paraguay Emergency; Argentine Researchers Seek U.S. Partners. Water Issues: Chile’s Glacier Protection Law Receives Pressure From Mining Companies. Forests: Brazil Gold Rush Tears Up a Patch of the Amazon; Ethanol in the Rainforest Global Commodities and Highway Transforming the Face of the Southwest Amazon. Biodiversity: Argentina Sport Hunting a Boost for Puma Trafficking; Peru Proposes International 'Genetic Passports'. Fishing & Marine Conservation: Argentina When One Ocean Is Not Enough. Science & Technology: Brazil, U.S. Sign Joint S&T Cooperation Document; Brazil to Invest $5 Billion in Biotech Research. Pollution: Argentina to Study Effects of Spill in Antarctica; Argentine Protests Target Sugar-Mill Waste; Chile Celco’s Valdivia Plant Faces Further Sanctions. Climate Change: Brazil Ministry Calls for National Plan to Confront Global Warming; Brazilian Chamber of Deputies Discusses Climate Change; Climate Change Forces Chile’s Forestry Industry South; Chile’s Government Acknowledges Climate Change; Peru May Lose Glaciers by 2015. Energy: Chile Could Have Geothermal Energy by 2010; Brazil Energy for Amazon's Frontiers; Peru Opens Door Wide to Amazon Drilling Projects; Chilean Residents Worry about Damming Quake Prone Zone; Brazil: Nuts for Energy. General: Brazil Bishops Rap Government on Damage in Amazon; Brazil’s Environment Minister Wins U.N. Honor at Critical Juncture; Mega-Pipeline Plan Draws Green Worries, Skepticism; New U.S. Law Would Enlist Fungi in War on Coca Crops; Venezuela Alarm Sounded on Rat Migration; Eco-Tourism Hope for Ecuador Tribes; Venezuela Fire Destroys Plain; Mill Dispute Costs Uruguay More Than $800 Million.
click here for a calendar of up-coming ESTH events across the Western Hemisphere

Agriculture

Zero tillage: Brazil's Own Green Revolution

 

FEB. 01, 2007 - Brazil's large farms have long pioneered a green cultivation technique that boosts growth.  Now its small farmers — and possibly the rest of the world — are following suit.  Called direct drilling, no-tillage or zero tillage (ZT), the technique is in part praised for fixing carbon in the soil, thereby reducing the amount of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — released into the air.  It also prevents soil erosion and therefore demands less irrigation.   Brazil has been a major pioneer of the technique since the country adopted it in the 1970s.  But its small farmers have been lagging behind, mainly hindered by the high costs of specialized planting machines needed for ZT.  Now, thanks to cheaper seeding machines and efforts by farming organizations and individual agronomists, small farmers are spreading the word.

 

Source – SciDev http://www.scidev.net/Features/index.cfm?fuseaction=readFeatures&itemid=576&language=1

 

Health     

Dengue Sparks Paraguay Emergency

 

MAR. 01, 2007 - Paraguay has declared a 60-day state of emergency to deal with an outbreak of dengue fever which has killed at least 10 people in the past two months.  Officials say 14,654 people have been diagnosed with dengue.  But doctors say the figure is 10 times higher, and are worried about a new more virulent variant of the disease.  Brazil and Bolivia have also seen a rise in cases of dengue, which is spread by mosquitoes and is endemic in much of the Americas.  Doctors working in state-run hospitals are planning to hold a demonstration outside the health ministry, in protest at what they describe as government inefficiency.  Private-sector doctors have accused the authorities of underestimating the impact of the outbreak, saying official figures represent 10% of real cases.  Experts have blamed the unusually rapid spread of the disease on a higher rainfall and uncommonly warm weather, which have boosted the population of the aedes aegypti mosquito.  More rains and high temperatures are forecast for the next two months, prompting fears that the number of cases will continue to rise.

 

Source – BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6407287.stm

 

Argentine Researchers Seek U.S. Partners

 

FEB. 09, 2007 - Argentine Multiple Sclerosis (MS) researcher Jorge Correale, who co-authored a widely-publicized recent study that found that Multiple Sclerosis progresses less rapidly in patients infected by parasites, met with  US Embassy Buenos Aires officer to discuss the study and express his hopes of furthering his research by partnering with U.S. researchers and institutions.
 
Source - BUENOS AIR   244

 

Water Issues

Chile’s Glacier Protection Law Receives Pressure From Mining Companies
 

FEB. 7, 2007 - A law to protect Chile’s rapidly-disappearing glaciers has already been approved – unanimously - by the Senate and is currently being reviewed in committee. Chile’s mining interests, however, are taking the opportunity to lobby government and leave their mark on the progressive law.  Chile Sustainable, The National Agricultural Society (SNA) and the Geographical Military Institute grouped together to present recommendations for the law, alarming Chile’s National Mining Society (Sonami). Under the new law, all scientific research and tourism activities will require a Declaration of Environmental Impact. Any industrial activity will require a full Environmental Impact Assessment which is reviewed by government.

 

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Forests

Ethanol in the Rainforest: Global Commodities and Highway Transforming the Face of the Southwest Amazon

 

FEB. 23, 2007 - USAID Mission officers and the Regional Environmental Affairs Officer visited the Southwest Amazon February 4-10, 2007 (en route to the Amazon Basin Conservation Initiative meeting in Yucay, Peru) on a 550- kilometer road trip connecting Rio Branco, capital of the state of Acre, with Puerto Maldonado, capital of Madre de Dios Department, Peru.  This route will soon form a paved export corridor extending to the Peruvian port of Ilo.  The group witnessed vastly different land-use practices between the two countries and sweeping changes taking place in the region as new highway corridors link this isolated region with Pacific ports.  In a landscape predominated by pastureland on what was formerly lush rainforest, the group was surprised to see a large expanse of sugar cane and a recently-installed ethanol plant near the Brazilian town of Capixaba.  Every indication is that sugar cane cultivation has joined cattle ranching and soybean cultivation as a profitable enterprise in the Brazilian rainforest, putting yet more pressure on this unique ecosystem. 

 

Source - BRASILIA   316

 

Brazil: Gold Rush Tears Up a Patch of the Amazon

 

FEB. 3, 2007- It's a gold rush in the Amazon jungle, driven by the Internet.  Speeding past unbroken walls of foliage, a motorboat packed with gritty prospectors veers toward the shore of the Juma river and spills its passengers into a city of black plastic lean-tos veiled by greasy smoke. All around them are newly dug pits, felled trees, misery and tales of striking it rich. This is Eldorado do Juma, scene of Brazil's biggest gold rush in more than 20 years.  Drawn by a Brazilian math teacher's Web site descriptions of miners scooping up thousands of dollars in gold, between 3,000 and 10,000 people have poured in since December, cutting down huge trees, diverting streams and digging ever-deeper wildcat mines, in an area that only months ago was pristine rain forest.  Hundreds of mud-covered men with picks and shovels hack at the earth, marking their tiny plots with tree branches and string.  Others feed dirt into wooden troughs and the residue into pans.  A lucky few will end up with tiny nuggets and flakes of gold to sell for $530 an ounce in the town of Apui, about 50 miles north.  Even the cooks, cleaners and porters serving the new industry are making about six times the minimum wage.

 

Source – Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com

 

Biodiversity

Argentina: Sport Hunting a Boost for Puma Trafficking

 

FEB. 05, 2007 - Fourteen pumas (Felis concolor), being kept illegally, were rescued by the Natural Resources Directorate of the central Argentine province of La Pampa in operations on Jan. 26 and Jan. 31.  These native big cats were being kept in cages on private land, presumably to be sedated and then released as easy prey for foreigners visiting the area for sport hunting.  "We are concerned, and condemn the existence of illegal hunting preserves, which is a crime punishable under the Animal Protection Act and the National Wildlife Act," Silvana Stochetti, of the Argentine Foundation for Animal Welfare, told Tierramérica.  "The authorities have to intensify monitoring procedures to prevent the existence of establishments that, with the excuse that they are promoting tourism and sport, profit from the lives of wild animals in an aberrant way."

 

Source – Tierramerica http://tierramerica.net/english/2007/0203/iecobreves.shtml

 

Peru Proposes International 'Genetic Passports'

 

FEB. 05, 2007 - Experts from 25 countries have backed a Peruvian proposal to create 'passports' for genetic resources — such as plants, animals and microorganisms — to help track their use outside the country of origin.  The scheme, put forward by the Technical Expert Group of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Lima, Peru January22–25, would allow countries to control the use of such resources outside of their borders.  The international transfer of genetic material has decreased in recent years due to over-regulation and distrust. It is hoped that the passport system may help rebuild trust, improve efficiency, and tackle biopiracy — the uncompensated commercial use of biological resources. The passports would cover all types of genetic resources — animals, plants and microorganisms. They would specify information such as the material's origin, its characteristics and the institutions responsible for providing it and using it.

 

Source – SciDev http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=3372&language=1.  Also contact Larissa Stoner for an EcoAmericas article on the same topic.

 

Fishing & Marine Conservation

Argentina: When One Ocean Is Not Enough

 

FEB 17, 2007 - Thanks to satellite tracking, a team of Argentine scientists found that southern elephant seals need much more ocean space to survive than previously thought. They can dive to a depth of 1,200 meters in search of food in the southwest Atlantic, and cross the Strait of Magellan to the Pacific.  The mapping of the movements of the Mirounga leonina, which goes far beyond the Patagonian Sea, is being done in the context of the Sea and Sky Project, a joint initiative of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Argentina's National Patagonian Center.  The results "alert us to the fact that to conserve ocean biodiversity the small protected areas are not enough, that greater dimensions are needed, in accordance with the space of the species to be protected," the project's executive director, Claudio Campagna, told Tierramérica.

Source – Tierramerica http://tierramerica.net/english/2007/0217/iacentos.shtml

 

Science & Technology

Brazil, U.S. Sign Joint S&T Cooperation Document 

 

FEB. 28, 2007 - Representatives of the Brazilian and American governments signed yesterday a joint declaration of cooperation in science and technology as preparation for the agreement to be established during President Bush’s upcoming visit to Sao Paulo. The text of the document defines five areas of partnership, the most important of them in the area of ethanol production.  The statement was signed by Ambassador Clifford Sobel and by the Vice-Minister of Science and Technology, Luíz Fernandes. O Globo quotes Fernandes: “The interesting thing is that we are equal to equal, that is, we also have a lot to offer in terms of technology in this unprecedented agreement.”  According to Fernandes, the U.S. is particularly interested in learning more about the Brazilian incentive program for ethanol, formerly known as Proalchool, and wants to work together with Brazil to disseminate the idea in other developing countries.   

 

Source – Public Affairs US Embassy Brasilia

 

Brazil to Invest $5 Billion in Biotech Research

 

FEB. 08, 2007 - Brazil plans to invest 10 billion reais ($4.76 billion) over the next 10 years into biotechnology research involving renewable energy, agriculture and rain forest pharmaceuticals, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Feb. 08.  "Brazil has 20 percent of the world's biodiversity and immense forests. The goal is to activate that potential," Lula said at an event to sign a decree outlining the policy.  More than half Brazil's territory is covered by the Amazon rain forest. Governments have long talked of tapping its potential as a source of pharmaceutical discoveries, but bureaucracy and lack of investment have slowed progress.  The funding should come from public and private investment. The government will contribute 60 percent, including funds from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), and the private sector will provide the rest, Development Minister Luiz Furlan said.

 

Source - http://news.yahoo.comSEE ALSO http://www.scidev.net/gateways/index.cfm?fuseaction=readitem&rgwid=1&item=News&itemid=3411&language=1

 

Pollution

Argentina to Study Effects of Spill in Antarctica

 

FEB. 14, 2007 - Although it is a light fuel, diesel spilled by the Nordkapp cruise ship could hurt Antarctica's biodiversity, including its emblematic penguins.  The Argentine National Directorate of the Antarctic is preparing a study.  The incident occurred on Jan. 30, when the Nordkapp cruise ship, carrying 295 passengers and 76 crew members, ran aground at Neptune's Bellows, a rocky area bordering Deception Island.  The ship lost 500 to 700 liters of diesel, reported the Hurtigruten Group, the company that operates the ship.

 

Source – Tierramerica http://tierramerica.net/english/2007/0210/iacentos.shtml

 

Argentine Protests Target Sugar-Mill Waste

 

FEB. 2007 - Visits to the Termas de Río Hondo, a city of 50,000 in Argentina’s northern province of Santiago del Estero, have dropped recently on account of the appearance of dead fish and strong odors in the artificial lake. Provincial government officials blame the problems on the worsening of pollution from sugar mills and other plants in neighboring Tucumán province that discharge waste into the Salí River.  The accusations have been fueled by a growing local protest movement focused on pollution of the lake. The demonstrations, usually designed to block traffic on the highway linking Santiago del Estero with the northern provinces of Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy, have become commonplace since starting last March, with some drawing up to 2,000 people.  In October, the two governors met in Buenos Aires to discuss the problem with Argentine Environment Secretary Romina Picolotti, who followed up in December with a visit to Termas de Río Hondo.  During her Dec. 28 visit, Picolotti received a petition from neighbors of the thermal springs, and she announced a 100-million-peso (US$32-million) investment aimed at helping the sugar mills, citrus plants, paper mills and other plants that discharge their waste into the Salí River watershed to cut pollution through the adoption of clean-production methods.

 

Source – EcoAmericas (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete artilcle)

Chile: Celco’s Valdivia Plant Faces Further Sanctions

 

FEB. 14, 2007 - Chile’s Environmental Commission (Corema) is initiating further sanctions against Celco’s controversial Region X cellulose plant for violation of waste disposal regulations aimed at safeguarding the area’s delicate ecosystem, clean water supplies, and nearby nature reserves.  A recent environmental analysis of a nearby lagoon revealed that Celco has been illegally dumping waste in an area specifically reserved for emergency spills. Furthermore, the company has directed waste into the lagoon without any sort of environmental impact study or a proper drainage system.  The lagoon waste scandal is the most recent in an onslaught of accusations against Celco, Chile’s largest forestry company and the third largest company of its kind in Latin America.  Celco belongs to the Angelini Group, owned by one of Chile’s wealthiest and most influential families.

 

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Climate Change

Brazil Ministry Calls for National Plan to Confront Global Warming

 

FEB. 28, 2007 - Environmental officials called for Brazil to develop a national plan to combat global warming, a day after scientists warned it could devastate the Amazon rain forest and lead to a spike in diseases like malaria and yellow fever [see SciDev http://www.scidev.net/gateways/index.cfm?fuseaction=readitem&rgwid=1&item=Features&itemid=578&language=1 for more on report].  The plan would define possible settlement areas for refugees from coastal areas where the oceans are expected to rise by as much as 40 centimeters (16 inches) and would call for renewed efforts to halt deforestation in the Amazon region, where burning accounts for most of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions.  If global warming is not slowed, average temperatures in the rain forest could increase by as much as eight degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), transforming the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness into an arid savanna by 2100, according to the studies.

 

Source - The Associated Press http://www.iht.com 

 

Brazilian Chamber of Deputies Discusses Climate Change


FEB. 16, 2007 – Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” was shown during two sessions (5 and 8pm) on February 28 at one of the auditoriums of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, in Brasilia.  The movie exhibitions were followed by a debate on climate change.

 

Source – O Eco

 

Climate Change Forces Chile’s Forestry Industry South

Feb. 12, 2007 - A temperature rise of just 2 degrees Celsius would force Chile’s forestry industry south as far as Region XI, and forestry companies are already testing the ground for potential profit.  Despite laying claim to four million hectares of woodland, Aysén (Region XI) produces just 0.5 percent of the national forestry production. However, as the effects of global warming become a reality, forestry companies have been looking south in order to maintain their industry.  “At the moment it’s hard to grow pine or eucalyptus around Valdivia and Puerto Montt. They’re very thin because of the cold and so aren’t very profitable,” said Santiago Barros, a specialist from the Chilean Forestry Institute (INFOR). “But with an increase of just a couple of degrees, these marginal zones would open up for forestry.”

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

 

Chile’s Government Acknowledges Climate Change

 

FEB. 9, 2007 - The recent United Nations report claiming that global temperatures would face up to four-degree-Celsius increases by the end of this century has provoked a climate change debate among Chile’s authorities.  Critics say a government plan to deal with climate change is long overdue and has been delayed several times since the National Advisory Committee for Climate Change was created in 2006. Although the main points of the plan have reportedly been ready for some time, the plan must still be approval by President Bachelet’s cabinet and must be given a budget. Hans Willumsen, president of the Environmental Commission (CONAMA) Pollution Control department, justifies the delays, saying they are due to a lack of consensus between scientific and government views on the main focus points of the plan.

 

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

 

Peru May Lose Glaciers by 2015

 

FEB. 19, 2007 - Peru's glaciers are melting at an increasing rate due to global warming, say scientists, who warn that by 2015 almost all of its glaciers will have disappeared.  Speaking last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, United States, glaciologist Lonnie Thompson said Peru's Qori Kalis glacier is retreating faster than at any other time in at least 5,000 years. [Qori Kalis is located in the Cusco region of southeast Peru, and is one of many glaciers retreating on the Quelccaya Ice Cap, the largest body of ice in the tropics]. He predicts it will disappear within five years.  Peru is home to 70 per cent of the world's glaciers; their disappearance will create problems for local communities.  Immediate threats include flooding caused by the melting glaciers and accompanying landslides, while longer term changes in water supply could lead to loss of crops and livestock.

 

Source – SciDev http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=3424&language=1

 

Energy

Chile Could Have Geothermal Energy By 2010

FEB. 17, 2007 - Despite occasional volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, Chile is fortunate to be a volcanic country.  Recent research has revealed that heat generated by Chile’s underground lava reserves could provide an environmentally acceptable solution to the nation’s energy needs in this age of global warming.  Two years ago the Chilean geothermal company Geotermia del Pacífico won exploration rights in the Curacautín zone, located between Regions VIII and IX (the south central part of Chile, near Temuco). Their efforts were supported by the National Call for Unconventional Renewable Energy (ERNC) through the state-run Corporation for Industrial Development (CORFO).  Results of the study are promising: Initially, two thermal areas could be developed to provide energy to 36,000 homes by 2010.  This project would require construction of a nine megawatt plant. Investment in this initiative is projected at up to US$8 million. The two areas Geotermia del Pacífico researched are San Gregorio, near the Tolhuaca Springs on the border of Regions VIII and IX, and Tripan, near the Río Blanco Springs in Region IX.

 

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Brazil: Energy for Amazon's Frontiers

 

FEB. 12, 2007 - Oil from the inaja palm, or great Brazilian palm (Maximiliana regia), will be used to fuel small electrical plants for isolated communities in the Amazonian frontier.  A pilot project capable of supplying 40 families will begin in March in the northern state of Roraima, which borders Venezuela.  "Natural oil will be used, not biodiesel, which requires complex technology for these parts," said Antonio Carlos Cordeiro, head of the Roraima center of EMBRAPA, the national agricultural research agency.  The palm's productivity is not yet known, but it is highly resistant to fire, and 40 to 60 percent of the fruit is oil, Cordeiro told Tierramérica.

 

Source – Tierramerica http://tierramerica.net/english/2007/0210/iecobreves.shtml

 

Peru Opens Door Wide to Amazon Drilling Projects

 

FEB. 2007 - Peru prepares to auction 18 new Amazon hydrocarbon concessions, environmental and indigenous groups are protesting that some blocks overlap protected lands and rainforest inhabited by nomads who shun contact with the outside world.  Two blocks include portions of the new Sierra del Divisor Reserved Zone on the Brazilian border, an area of unusual geological formations and numerous endemic species.  Others intrude on buffer zones surrounding the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and the Alto Purús, Manu and Cordillera Azul national parks.  And seven overlap areas meant to protect nomadic indigenous groups living in isolation. On Feb. 4, the Inter-Ethnic Association for Development of the Peruvian Rainforest demanded the government exclude those concession blocks from the auction.  Peruvian officials argue the energy-development push is important for the economic future of the country, whose proven reserves are currently pegged at 1.1 billion barrels of oil and 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Bids, now being solicited, are slated to be opened in July. Said President Alan García in December: “By the end of my government, we will be petroleum exporters, after more than 30 years [of oil development].”  Environmentalists portray the government concessions policy as out of control, saying oil and gas drilling is being promoted virtually everywhere without regard to impacts.

 

Source – EcoAmericas (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete article).  SEE ALSO http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6326741.stm

 

Chilean Residents Worry About Damming Quake Prone Zone

FEB. 14, 2007 - Residents and activists in Region XI, already concerned about the devastating impact the so-called Aysén Project could have on the area’s pristine wilderness, now have a new argument for why it is simply a bad idea to dam Patagonia’s rivers: earthquakes.  In recent weeks, residents in the towns of Pueto Aysén and Puerto Chacabuco have been quite literally shaken up by an unusual spate of seismic activity that has been rocking the area. In the last week of January, seismologists recorded an astounding 1,700 tremors, only a small but still alarming number of which were noticeable.  Several of the small quakes registered as high as 6 on the Mercalli scale.  Authorities, however, have since come up with another theory to explain the tremors. A team of scientists dispatched to the area in late January concluded that the quakes are likely being caused by an underground magma flow, located below the floor of the nearby Aysén fjord.

 

Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Brazil: Nuts for Energy

 

FEB. 5, 2007 - The shell of the Brazil nut (Bertholettia excelsa), normally thrown out as waste, is a better source of energy than the best plant-based charcoal used in Brazil's steel industry, says the National Institute of Amazonian Research.   "Annually, there are at least 60,000 tons of shells available, gone to waste until now," Paulo Roberto Moura, author of the study released Jan. 24, told Tierramérica.  Burning the shells generates the same heat as the eucalyptus lumber most used in Brazil (Eucalyptus grandis), but lasts twice as long, and produces less air pollution.  As a waste product from deep inside the Amazon region, it would be ideal to use it to generate electricity locally.  The added value also favors industrialization to separate and process the nut and its shell, facilitating extraction and improving final products, says Moura.

 

Source – Tierramerica http://tierramerica.net/english/2007/0203/iecobreves.shtml

 

General

Brazil Bishops Rap Government on Damage in Amazon

 

FEB. 23, 2007- Brazil's Catholic bishops have called on the government to stop stoking "predatory" development in the Amazon region, which they say causes destruction of the world's largest rain forest. "Our main concern is that the government is absent and not acting where it should," stated Dom Orani Joao Tempesta, Archbishop of Belem and commission head of the influential Brazilian National Bishops' Council, or CNBB.  "The church is not against development, but it opposes development that deprives populations of their future. We have to nurture respect for nature," he said.  The CNBB annual Fraternity Campaign began debates on Feb. 22 near Belem in the Amazon on how better protect the region. A CNBB statement said the Fraternity Campaign for the Amazon was "a call for state and society to stop financing and tolerating a predatory model of development".  The bishops said the government, via its recently restored Sudam Amazon development agency, was giving tax and other incentives for farming, including soybean cultivation, in the region, without monitoring its expansion.

 

Source – Planet Ark http://www.planetark.org

 

Brazil’s Environment Minister Wins U.N. Honor at Critical Juncture

 

FEB. 2007 - Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva has been named a recipient of the 2007 Champions of the Earth award, a United Nations prize to be given in April to seven individuals worldwide in recognition of environmental achievement.  The award, which also is going to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Prince Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan and International Olympic Committee Chairman Jacques Rogge, comes at a time when Silva could use a political boost.  Pro-development factions in the Brazilian government, frustrated by underwhelming economic growth, are pressing hard for quicker execution of a wide range of infrastructure projects from hydroelectric dams to ports.  Silva, who insists such projects must be subject to full environmental review, has been portrayed by some top officials in the government as an obstacle, putting her on the receiving end of rumors that she might be ousted.  Green advocates believe the awarding of the UNEP prize to Silva might make rival officials reluctant to push for her ouster: “[Silva’s] image abroad is not only why Lula hired her but why it’s hard for him to fire her,” says Roberto Smeraldi, president of the Brazilian office of the Friends of the Earth environmental group. “The prize doesn’t necessarily give her more power. It just underscores her global prestige.”

 

Source – EcoAmericas (pleas contact Larissa Stoner for complete article)

Mega-Pipeline Plan Draws Green Worries, Skepticism

 

FEB. 2007 - After more than a year of discussions, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez signed an agreement Jan. 19 with his Brazilian and Argentine counterparts in Brasília to begin work next year on a US$20-$25 billion, 6,200-mile (10,000-km) natural gas pipeline stretching from Venezuela to Argentina.  Though the route has yet to be defined, Venezuelan officials say the pipeline probably would carry gas from the Gulf of Cariaco off the northern coast of Venezuela, across Venezuela’s Guayana region and the Brazilian Amazon and terminate in Argentina near the Río de la Plata.  It would expand markets for Venezuela’s enormous gas reserves into Brazil and Argentina, and Chávez claims it would create 1 million jobs throughout South America.  Meanwhile, some observers suggest that at least in the short term, the Argentine and Brazilian governments might be showing inordinate interest in the pipeline project simply to send a message to Bolivian President Evo Morales that they have the ability to tap large natural gas reserves elsewhere in the region.

 

Source – EcoAmericas (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete article)

New U.S. Law Would Enlist Fungi in War on Coca Crops

 

FEB. 2007 - U.S. legislation requiring government scientists to study the use of toxic fungi on illegal drug crops is drawing widespread opposition from environmentalists and even U.S. government agencies.  The law, signed on Dec. 29 by President George Bush, requires testing of the efficacy and environmental impacts of mycoherbicides—soil-borne, plant-killing fungi.  Environmentalists fear it is a first step in the use of biological agents against coca and poppy plantations in Colombia and other nations.  Critics from dozens of non-governmental groups in the United States and other countries argue the fungi would threaten legal crops as well as biodiversity.  They also say the use of it would amount to a violation of the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention of 1975.  Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador prohibit the use of chemicals and biological agents in drug eradication.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Agriculture reportedly oppose the initiative on environmental and diplomatic grounds.  And at least until 2005, even the U.S. drug czar had doubts about the fungi.

 

Source – EcoAmericas (please contact Larissa Stoner for complete article)

Venezuela: Alarm Sounded on Rat Migration

 

FEB. 26, 2007 - The Caracas city government forced hundreds of street vendors off the main avenues of Caracas in January, resulting in a mass migration of rats to neighboring residential areas. The rodents had fed on the tons of garbage generated daily by the informal vendors, said residents.  "Giant rats are entering gardens and even the fourth floor of buildings in our district," said Carlos Godoy, member of the residents' association of La Campiña. In Catia, to the west, a neighborhood group conducted a study that "found up to 70 rats per inhabitant."  The rodents "emigrate when the source of food is exhausted, but to associate this increase with the clean-up of the pedestrian thoroughfares would require a study that the authorities haven't yet done, and they should act quickly to prevent the many diseases carried by rats," Diego Díaz, president of the environmental group Vitalis, told Tierramérica.

 

Source – Tierramerica http://tierramerica.net/english/2007/0224/iecobreves.shtml

 

Eco-Tourism Hope for Ecuador Tribes

 

FEB. 22, 2007 - An indigenous tribe from one of the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest is taking over a unique eco-tourism project as a way to protect their ancestral lands from oil extraction.  The project in south-eastern Ecuador is being seen as a blueprint for other indigenous communities facing similar challenges around the world.  One of those who hopes to benefit from the venture is 20-year-old Angel Etsaa of the Achuar tribe - he has found a new job to support his wife and one-year-old daughter. He has just become a guide at the Kapawi Eco-lodge. He earns $150 (£75) a month and wants to study management to help run the business in the future. The commercial venture is being handed over piece-by-piece - by 2011, the Achuar people should be the sole owners.  But it is not just about providing work beyond living off the land. This place is the gateway to the Amazon Basin rainforest, one of the largest biodiversities anywhere in the world. The Achuar want to protect it along with their own culture.

 

Source – BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6354887.stm

 

Venezuela: Fire Destroys Plain

 

FEB. 12, 2007 - A fire that started Feb. 2 on La Negra high plain, 600 km southwest of the capital, consumed more than 1,000 hectares of vegetation.  Even with the support of military helicopters, additional firefighters, soldiers and disaster workers, they were unable to contain the blaze that consumed vegetation from river beds, forested areas of Juan Pablo Peñaloza national park, and farmland. According to Yuri Bermúdez, commander of the local firefighting team, the unusually warm temperatures for this time of year likely helped ignite the inflammable waste left along the roads of the park by visitors. 

 

Source – Tierramerica http://tierramerica.net/english/2007/0210/iecobreves.shtml

 

Mill Dispute Costs Uruguay More Than $800 Million

 

FEB. 05, 2007 - The losses to Uruguay’s economy from its long-running pulp mill dispute with Argentina have reached a sum equivalent to more than 4 per cent of its gross domestic product and are threatening the unity of South America’s Mercosur trading bloc, according to Uruguay’s foreign minister.  The dispute has so far cost more than $800 million to the country’s economy, against the $1.2 billion value of foreign investment in the mill, said Reinaldo Gargano in an interview with the Financial Times.

 

Source – Financial Times

 

 

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