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South America Environment, Science &Technology, and Health Newsletter Edition 98

by Stoner, Larissa A — last modified Jan 10, 2013 08:03 AM
Contributors: rhessmiller
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. 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.
Health: Abbott Laboratories and Brazil Reach Agreement on Cost of AIDS Drug. Forests: Uruguay Attracts Expanding Chilean Forestry Companies; Small Communities Key To Preserving World's Remaining Forests, Report Says; Guyana Considering Modern Sawmill Proposal. Fishing & Marine Conservation: Brazil Fishermen Caught Killing Dolphins. Protected Areas: Oil Plan Casts Shadow on Bolivia Park. Science & Technology: Colombia: New Center of Excellence in Genomics. Pollution: Mercury Threat from Mining Seen In Guyana; Argentine Ombudsman Joins Oilfield Lawsuit. Climate Change: Guyana Gets Climate Change Grant; Lake Disappearance in Chile Linked to Global Warming Guyana: Climate Change Affecting Sea Turtle Nesting Habits. Energy: Chile: Matte Creates Fund for Renewable Energy; Brazil to Revive Nuclear Project; Chile Focuses on Long-Term Energy Strategy; Colombia: President Inaugurates First Biodiesel Plant; Issues 20 Percent Blending Mandate; Brazil Gives Preliminary OK to Amazon Dams Criticized by Environmentalists; Ecuador: Biofuel Efforts Attract Organized Opposition; Brazil to Certify Sustainable Production of Ethanol; Brazil To Ban Sugarcane Crops In The Amazon. General: Green Safeguards Bolstered in Three Trade Deals; Nazca Lines Affected by ‘Informal’ Gold Mining; Colombia, Ecuador launch Regional Fundacion Natura. Update on Avian Influenza: SOUTHCOM Preparedness Workshop for Central and South America

NOTE:  The South America ESTH Newsletter is now also available on the Intranet -

Edition # 98.  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.


Abbott Laboratories and Brazil Reach Agreement on Cost of AIDS Drug


JULY 4, 2007 -The Brazilian government and Abbott Laboratories have agreed to reduce the price of an anti-AIDS drug by nearly 30 percent this year, and even more next year, the Health Ministry and the company said.  The agreement with the U.S.-based company lowers the price of each Kaletra pill to US$0.73 from US$1.04 until the end of the year.  In 2008, each pill will cost US$0.68, or "US$1,000 per patient per year," the Health Ministry said.

Kaletra, a protease inhibitor, is one of the most commonly used anti-AIDS drugs in Brazil, which provides free AIDS drugs to anyone who needs them.  Brazil manufactures generic versions of several drugs that were in production before the country enacted an intellectual property law in 1997 to join the World Trade Organization. 


Source – International Herald Tribune  SEE ALSO



UruguayAttracts Expanding Chilean Forestry Companies


JULY 24, 2007 - Chile’s relatively small concentration of fertile land has forced its forestry companies to look closely at other Latin American countries for expansion.  Forestry companies have started to set their sights on a host of other countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela. A recent report by PriceWaterHouse about the world forestry industry indicated that Brazil was the most attractive country to invest in during 2006.  The report also identified Uruguay as having high potential for planting and installing processing plants.   As a result, Chilean companies are seriously considering Brazil and Uruguay. “The governments of those countries are giving important support for development of the forestry sector. Because of that Arauco and CMPC have begun investing in those countries, and there are also many others who are interesting in entering,” according to Ricardo Arrañi, a consultant at PriceWaterHouse.


Source – MercoPress 


Small Communities Key To Preserving World's Remaining Forests, Report Says


JULY 16, 2007-Supporting communities who earn their livelihoods from forests, rather than creating national parks, may represent the best hope for preserving the world's remaining wilderness.  That's according to Andy White, a coordinator of the Washington D.C. -based Rights and Resources Initiative, who presented a review of forest-based businesses from around the world to a conference in the Amazon.  Some 110 million people around the world are involved in forest enterprises harvesting wood, bamboo, rattan, fibers, nuts, resins, medicinal herbs, honey and other natural products, White said, and granting land rights to these small communities working in sustainable forest industries is especially urgent now as a boom in biofuels drives land speculation.  "The evidence from around the world, not only here in the Amazon, is that once their rights are recognized, forest communities are more effective at protecting forests than national parks," White said.  White spoke by telephone from Rio Branco, capital of the western Amazon state of Acre, which hosted a weeklong conference uniting 250 community forest entrepreneurs and policy makers from Africa, Asia, Central and South America.


Source – International Herald Tribune


NOTE FROM THE HUB: A member of the HUB staff was present at this event.  Please refer to BRASILIA 1425.


GuyanaConsidering Modern Sawmill Proposal


JULY 11, 2007 -A cabinet sub-committee is currently reviewing the proposal of a US company seeking approval to begin value adding in the wood sector and which says that there is too much wastage in the sawmilling process in Guyana.  Simon and Shock International Inc (SSI) is promising a modern sawmill operation unlike anything seen in any of the tropical forests in the world.  The company said that it would have a recovery rate of close to 70 per cent and over and the little waste it produces will be used to power its kiln-drying plant.  This means that logs will be 100 percent utilized.  The company plans to invest over US$26M in three years.


Source – Stabroeknews


Fishing & Marine Conservation

BrazilFishermen Caught Killing Dolphins


JULY 17, 2007-A crew of Brazilian fishermen was captured on video killing 83 dolphins and joking about their illegal haul, according to Brazil's Ibama environmental protection agency.

The video obtained by an Ibama researcher and broadcast by Globo TV showed the fishermen netting the dolphins, which suffocated because they could not surface to breathe.  The dead dolphins were then hauled from the sea and piled on the boat's deck. Fishermen on board are seen laughing after someone said, ''Everyone's going to jail after this filming!'' International dolphin advocates who saw the video said they were appalled and Ibama announced it will try to impose fishing restrictions along parts of Brazil's coast where dolphins are common.  The researcher had been contracted by the agency to monitor catches of other fish in the area where the dolphin kill took place off the coast of Amapa state, near where the Amazon River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. No one has been charged or fined because authorities were still trying to identify the fishermen on video, Ibama said in a statement.


Source – New York Times


Protected Areas

Oil Plan Casts Shadow on Bolivia Park


JULY 11, 2007 - Despite being a symbol of biodiversity in Bolivia, some feel that protected areas like Madidi [National Park] could deliver more for the country's poor.  In May, 80 farmers armed themselves and seized a part of the national park.  They wanted land to cultivate crops, a road to run through Madidi and the immediate exploitation of its oil. The farmers have now drawn back and the government is promising a military post to defend Madidi and its resources.  But Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, recently visited Madidi to highlight the existence of natural resources in traditionally less productive regions.  The government agrees that ecotourism has potential; but it does not see it as a panacea.  "The protected areas belong to the people. There is no logic in having protected areas that marginalize the population," says Juan Pablo Ramos Morales, the vice-minister who has been leading discussions on Madidi.  "The protected areas should provide opportunities for local communities.  Conservation makes no sense if it does not generate benefits for society as a whole.  We need more analysis.  It may be that some areas allow for this kind of hydrocarbons activity and others do not."


Source – BBC


Science & Technology

Colombia: New Center of Excellence in Genomics


JULY 14, 2007 -Colombiahas a new center for research on genomics and bioinformatics, launched on June 27.  The Colombian Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics in Extreme Environments (GeBiX) will receive funding from Colombian Institute for Science and Technology Development (Colciencias) and the National Learning Service (Sena), which will allocate USD1.5 million for research over the next two years.  GeBiX will work on the elaboration of a metagenomics and bioinformatics platform in order to identify and use genetic resources in extreme environments.  The Center will carry out bioprospection of microorganisms in the Nevados National Park, which has an area of 58,300 hectares, and altitudes ranging from 400 up to 5,300 meters above sea level.


Source – SciDev 



Mercury Threat from Mining Seen In Guyana


JULY 12, 2007-There is a threat of mercury contamination from mining in three villages in the North West District, a study has found, and many persons in those communities are unaware of the risks.  According to results of the assessment, which was conducted in 2005, there were "significant levels of mercury contamination among the population examined in the three communities since many individuals had mercury levels within them that were above the guideline value for mercury levels in humans". The study utilized the guideline value set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for humans stated as 10 parts per million (ppm).  The results were presented at an Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST)/World Wildlife Fund (WWF) workshop held at the Demerara Mutual Insurance Company boardroom on the Mercury Impact Assessment on Gold Mining Activities. The objectives of the study were to determine the level of mercury poisoning and contamination within the human population and the environment and also to improve educational awareness among the population as it regards mercury pollution. It was conducted in three communities namely Arakaka, Port Kaituma and Matthew's Ridge in the North West District.


Source – Stabroeknews


Argentine Ombudsman Joins Oilfield Lawsuit


JULY 2007 - Argentina’s National Ombudsman has asked the country’s Supreme Court to order Spain’s Repsol YPF, Brazil’s Petrobras and 15 other companies to clean up the Neuquén oilfields, traditionally one of Argentina’s most productive oil- and natural-gas-producing areas.  Filed in support of a landholders’ suit against the oil companies, the petition resembles one that preceded a Supreme Court order last year that polluters plan a cleanup of the notoriously polluted Riachuelo River in Buenos Aires. But it could set the stage for the cleanup of areas beyond the Neuquén oil basin, which embraces two-thirds of the Patagonian province of Neuquén as well as portions of Mendoza, La Pampa and Río Negro provinces.  That’s because a ruling against the oil companies could serve as a precedent for similar legal action against oil companies tapping four other Argentine oil basins.


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

Climate Change

GuyanaGets Climate Change Grant


JULY 11, 2007 -The Government of Guyana and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed an agreement for a grant of US$455,000 to assist in Guyana meeting its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).  This new three-year project between the UNDP and the Government will assist in the preparation of the Second National Communication to the Conference of the Parties.  Among the main components of the project are an inventory of greenhouse gases, programs containing measures to facilitate adequate adaptation and mitigation to climate change and collecting essential information related to the implementation of the Convention, including technology needs assessment, public awareness and information related to integration of climate change into local and regional policies. The project will be implemented through the Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture with the guidance of the National Climate Change Committee and the involvement of several sector agencies and line ministries.


Source - Stabroeknews


LakeDisappearance in Chile Linked to Global Warming

JULY 4, 2007 - Experts from Chile’s National Forestry Service (CONAF) and the Valdivia Center for Scientific Studies (Cecs) have linked the May disappearance of a glacial lake in far southern Chile to global warming. The team made these claims after a series of visits to the site of the lost lake, and noted there is a possibility that the lake could reform.  Residents of the extremely remote area blame the 6.2 magnitude earthquake which hit the neighboring Aysen region last April and caused over 50 landslides. They suggest that a rift opened up and drained the lake’s water.  But Chilean glaciologist Gino Casassa, one of the 63 experts who participated in the second UN report on global warming, told the La Tercera newspaper that he believes the lake disappeared due to a relatively common glacial phenomenon: a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF).  A GLOF is a sudden increase in a lake’s volume due to one of various possible causes, including a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, an avalanche, or a portion of a glacier falling into the lake.  Casassa speculated that the GLOF broke open a tunnel of ice below the lake, which drained the water to the ocean. “In this zone in particular... we have evidence that, in general, the lakes are filling up as the glaciers melt,” said Casassa.  Global warming is most likely responsible for this process, as well as for the increase in GLOFs, he added.


Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Guyana: Climate Change Affecting Sea Turtle Nesting Habits


JUNE 25, 2007 -The changing nesting patterns of endangered sea turtles in Guyana, is alerting environmentalists to the impact of climate change on these marine animals. The shell beaches in Region One have hosted thousands of nesting turtles over the years, and conservationists have been endeavoring to protect the turtles from heavy domestic use and from being traded.  Usually sea turtles nest in Guyana from March to August every year.  However, for the last three to four years, says Michelle Kalamandeen, Project Coordinator of the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS), the nesting pattern has shifted from mid-January to mid-July.  This may have a significant impact on the hatchlings as food availability may be an issue for them.


Source – Stabroek News



Chile: Matte Creates Fund for Renewable Energy

JULY 25, 2007 - The Matte group has started to seek out non-conventional sources of renewable energy.  The business conglomerate joined with the Independence Investment Fund to create a fund that seeks to raise US$ 100 million which will be devoted to renewable energy projects.  The Independence Fund will administrate the finances of the new fund, which is expected to operate for 10 years.  The Matte group will also invest US$120 million in new projects concerning renewable energy sources, which will bring over 100 MW to the Interconnected Central System.  The system is expected to operate between 2008 and 2012.

Source – Santiago Times (no link)


NOTE FROM THE HUB: Matte group is involved in the construction of the controversial Aysen Dam.


Brazilto Revive Nuclear Project


JULY 11, 2007 -Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said hundreds of millions of extra dollars would be made available for the project over the next eight years.  Work on the third reactor for uranium enrichment stopped in the 1980s over security fears and lack of funds.  Brazil's has two operating nuclear reactors - Angra 1 and Angra 2.  Brazil's Angra 1 and Angra 2 - located in the same region - have an installed capacity of about 2,000 megawatts, and Angra 3 would increase capacity to 3,000 megawatts.  Angra 3 would require an investment of about $3.7billion with construction due to be completed by 2013, according to Energy and Mines Minister Nelson Hubner.  Brazil, which is heavily dependent on hydro-electricity, could face energy shortages in a couple of years if generating capacity is not increased, analysts say.  A severe drought in 2001 led the authorities to introduce energy rationing.


Source – BBC


ChileFocuses on Long-Term Energy Strategy

JULY 23, 2007 - Chile’s impending energy crisis, sharpened by diplomatic tensions with Argentina and one of the coldest winters on record, was the theme of a seminar held in Valparaiso’s Congress building.  New Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman Ramos, Environment Minister Ana Lyn Uriarte and various members of Congress spoke at the event, which was titled “Energy Policy in Chile: A Challenge.”  In a country that currently imports 74 percent of its energy, the prospect that one of its principal suppliers – Argentina – may stop providing gas is a worrying one.  And, “we have to say it like it is. Argentine gas is going to stop coming some day. We have to forget about it,” said Dep. Francisco Encina at the seminar’s opening.
Many of the speakers urged that to deal with this reality Chile must figure out a way to supply its own energy, though not at the cost of destroying its environment.  Minister Uriarte spoke of the importance of diversifying Chile’s energy supply, and of making a gradual transition to “clean” and/or renewable energy sources such as wind, hydrothermal power and bio-gas.
Speakers also examined the other side of the coin – reducing energy demand.


Source – Santiago Times (no link)

Colombia: President Inaugurates First Biodiesel Plant; Issues 20 Percent Blending Mandate


JULY 11, 2007 - On July 8, President Uribe opened Colombia's first biodiesel plant. The facility, which is owned by former Agriculture Minister Carlos Murgas, is the first of at least five biodiesel projects expected to come online by mid-2008.  The growth of the biodiesel industry follows the implementation of a series of government incentives since 2003 to promote biofuels development.  The opening of Colombia's first biodiesel plant coincided with the July 7 announcement of a GOC decree to raise the biodiesel blending mandate from five percent to 20 percent by 2012.


Source -BOGOTA   4956


BrazilGives Preliminary OK to Amazon Dams Criticized by Environmentalists


JULY 9, 2007-The government has granted a preliminary green light to a massive Amazon dam project intended to prevent possible energy shortages, but also criticized as a potential environmental disaster.  The approval from Brazil's environmental protection agency, Ibama, opens the door to bidding on the construction of multiple dams that would generate electricity and permit barges to navigate 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) to upstream tributaries in Peru and Bolivia.  Other permits must still be obtained before the estimated US$10 billion-US$14.7 billion project gets under way, but the decision was a key step and is sure to prompt interest from big construction companies.  The government hopes to complete the Santo Antonio and Jirau dams on the Madeira River, a major Amazon tributary, by 2012.  They are expected to produce 6,450 megawatts, or 8 percent of current electricity demand in Latin America's largest nation and economy.


Source – International Herald Tribune


NOTE FROM THE HUB: The Government of Bolivia was apparently “caught by surprise” with the news and requested a high level emergency meeting with the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister Celso Amorim reportedly replied saying they were welcome to come to Brasilia anytime between July 23-27 for a technical – and not political – meeting (SEE article in Portuguese .


Ecuador: Biofuel Efforts Attract Organized Opposition


JULY 2007 - A gathering of non-governmental groups in Quito, Ecuador, in June underscored how biofuels production, the objective of some green advocates, has begun drawing organized environmental scrutiny.  Some 250 attendees representing dozens of Latin American, Asian and African organizations drafted strategies aimed at pressuring international agencies and national governments currently promoting biofuels production as an environmentally sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.  The meeting highlighted questions about the justification and impacts of biofuels.  Participants agreed to take joint action to influence biofuels policies of the United Nations, World Bank, development agencies and governments.


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

Brazilto Certify Sustainable Production of Ethanol


JULY 05, 2007 - Brazil will create its own biofuel certificate to show that Brazilian ethanol is produced in a sustainable way, protecting the environment.  The announcement was be made by President Lula during the first International Conference on Biofuels in Brussels.  According to one media article, the EU has been showing signs of imposing restrictions on Brazilian ethanol due to the need for a process of certification of the producing companies.  One Brazilian daily published an op-ed by President Lula titled: “The alternative of biofuels” in which he states that the responsibility of developed countries in the control of greenhouse emissions should be maintained.  Brazil is the largest ethanol producer with a production of about 13 million tons in 2005, followed by the United States with a production of 11.8 million tons.


Source – Public Affairs US Embassy Brasilia


BrazilTo Ban Sugarcane Crops In The Amazon

JULY 18, 2007 -The Government of Brazil announced it will start controlling the expansion of sugar cane crops throughout the country to avoid accusations of environmental degradation and to reduce pressure on areas dedicated to food crops. “A map of restrictions will forbid sugar cane planting in the Amazon, Pantanal and other areas that we are still studying, but that we won’t announce at the moment,” said Agriculture Minister Reinhold Stephanes. Ministry officials say that there are currently 10 million hectares of degraded cattle raising grounds in Mato Grosso do Sul that could receive government incentives to be converted to sugar cane production to reduce the pressure on valuable ecosystems. 


Source – Public Affairs US Embassy Brasilia



Green Safeguards Bolstered in Three Trade Deals


JULY 2007 - The Bush administration has signed three revised free trade agreements with Peru, Panama and Colombia that include significantly stronger labor and environmental protections.  The agreements, signed June 25 with Peru and June 28 with Panama and Colombia, incorporate not only new guarantees of labor rights, but mandatory compliance with several environmental treaties and tough new measures on illegal logging as demanded by the Democratic majority in May.  Analysts say that as a result, the U.S. Congress is likely to approve the pacts with Panama and Peru this fall, knocking down tariffs on about 90% of trade between the United States and the two countries.  Last year the United States carried out US$9 billion in trade with Peru and $3 billion with Panama.  Approval of a similar agreement with Colombia is considered unlikely this year because of violence against trade unionists and revelations that Colombian government allies have been collaborating with death squads.  Although U.S. and Andean green groups have their criticisms towards the agreements, they say the accords do give green considerations greater weight in dispute settlement and require signatories to comply with several environmental treaties already signed by the United States and Colombia, Panama and Peru.

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

Nazca Lines Affected by ‘Informal’ Gold Mining


JULY 22, 2007 – Three “informal” gold mining plants, two of which do not have a license to operate, have been installed in the region of Nazca and Palpa and are affecting the region known for its historical and cultural importance.  In one of the plants, the Nazca lines are being used as improvised roads for the transportation of material.  The media report goes on to point that many of these trucks leave debris along the “roads.”


Source – El Comercio


Colombia, Ecuador launch Regional Fundacion Natura


JULY 12, 2007 - July 12 marked the launching of "Fundacion Natura Regional", a joint effort of the two Fundacion Natura organizations in Colombia and Ecuador.  They decided to work jointly on the protection of bilateral watersheds and the creation of a carbon bank to fund GHG reduction projects.  The efforts are just starting, but the eventual goal is to expand the work of the organization to the Andean and South American level.  For more information (in Spanish) see


Source – US Embassy Bogota


WTO Decision on Retreads Buoys Both Sides in Dispute


JULY 2007 - After a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel ruled June 12 on the dispute between the European Union and Brazil over Brazil’s import ban on retreaded tires, both sides declared victory.  Though the WTO panel supported the EU’s view that the ban violated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), it recognized the measure’s health and environmental rationale.  The EU set the WTO battle in motion two years ago, when it filed a complaint portraying Brazil’s 2000 ban on retread imports as an unfair restraint on trade. Though the import ban also covered used-tire imports, the EU focused its case on retread imports.  Brazil argued that since retreads have a shorter lifespan than new tires, widespread use of them boosts the number of discarded tires clogging landfills and littering the countryside.  That, the government contended, poses a public health threat by creating more habitat for malaria and dengue-fever-carrying mosquitoes.  It was the first time a developing country had used such health and environment arguments to defend itself in a WTO dispute, a foreign ministry official says.


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

Update on Avian Influenza

SOUTHCOM Preparedness Workshop for Central and South America


JULY 24, 2007 - SOUTHCOM and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for Military Medicine sponsored a workshop on pandemic influenza July 10-12 in Panama that brought together military, police, health, and agriculture officials from  Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.  The first two days featured presentations and discussions by representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Gorgas Institute,  SOUTHCOM, Naval Medical Research Center Detachment-PERU (NMRDC-Peru), Bureau of Medicine (BUMED), Navy Environmental Preventive Medicine (NEPMU-2), U.S. Army Medical Institute for Infectious Diseases, DoD Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System (GEIS), Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), G/AIAG, USAID, and Martin-Blanck and Associates. The third day was devoted to a desktop exercise on a pandemic outbreak.  Participants shared information on preparations to date and explored what a pandemic influenza could mean for their countries and the region.  Several of them said that their national medical facilities were already stretched to the limit and that it was clear they would look for external assistance during a pandemic and in the recovery phrase.  A similar meeting for the Caribbean countries is planned for September 11-13. 


Source – AIAG daily bulletin

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