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Eco-briefs

 
 

UNITED STATES: Campaign to Save the Hubble

SAN FRANCISCO - Scientists responsible for the Hubble space telescope are seeking a reversal of the decision by NASA (U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to cancel maintenance missions to prolong the useful life of the telescope-satellite by four to five years.

An independent study has been requested to evaluate the NASA decision, says Steven Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, head of scientific operations of the Hubble, considered one of the most valuable tools of modern science.

When NASA made the announcement on Jan. 16, the dangers that astronauts face during maintenance missions was mentioned. The crew of the space shuttle Columbia, which exploded during its return to Earth in 2002, was the last to visit the telescope.

The issue should be discussed with the astronauts, Beckwith told Tierramérica. "The performance of the Hubble has been exceptional. Without maintenance, it will stop producing scientific data between 2006 and 2007."

 
 

MEXICO: Dolphins Out of Place

MEXICO CITY - The International Fund for Animals Welfare accused the Mexican authorities of dragging its feet in responding to reports of the import of 28 dolphins from the Salomon Islands and their shipment to an area where the introduction of non-native species is prohibited.

Six months have passed since the importation of the dolphins, which violated international law, Beatriz Bugeda, spokeswoman for the Fund in Latin America, told Tierramérica. They are being kept in a sea cove, separated from native dolphins only by a mesh screen.

These sea mammals were imported for the Parque Atlántica, a tourist attraction near the eastern resort of Cancún, in a protected area of Mexico's Caribbean coast.

"We made the denunciation last year to the Federal Environmental Prosecutor of Mexico, but strangely they have delayed in their investigation and the implementation of measures, which is why we are demanding immediate action so there is no precedent for impunity," Bugeda said.

 
 

ARGENTINA: Attorneys for the Environment

BUENOS AIRES - The Argentine Network of Lawyers for the Defense of the Environment will begin operating in March to facilitate, promote and strengthen access to justice and the development of effective strategies in environment-related cases.

The idea for the network was discussed in late 2003 at a meeting convened by the Center for Human Rights and Environment and by the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation, with the participation of attorneys with experience in defending the environment or people whose health has been affected by contamination.

The network, which extends to environmental and human rights groups, will respond to consultations and denunciations made by individuals or communities, but above will aims to development communications and exchange mechanisms to establish common strategies.

 
 

GUATEMALA: Protection for the Reefs

GUATEMALA CITY - Environmental authorities from Guatemala and Belize installed a plant on the Sarstún River aimed at protecting the portion of the Mesoamerican Reef System (SAM) that corresponds to those two countries.

It is the third such installation for protecting the SAM, which extends from Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula south to the Bay of Honduras, biologist Carlos Baldeti told Tierramérica.

"The SAM includes the second most extensive reef in the world, after Australia's (Great Barrier Reef). Given its length, the composition of reef types and the opulence of coral, it is unique in the western hemisphere," he said.

"The reef system serves as a reproduction site and as a source of food for mammals, reptiles, fish and marine invertebrates, as well as for land animals and numerous bird species," Baldeti said.

Associated with the SAM coral reefs are vast extensions of coastal marshes, lagoons, marine grasses and mangroves, which hold threatened species like manatees, crocodiles, jaguars and tapir.

 
 

HONDURAS: Reforestation to Save Unique Ecosystem

TEGUCIGALPA - Local residents and officials have begun planting 52,000 trees in order to save the ecosystem surrounding Lake Yojoa, a tourist destination and home to 10 percent of flora and fauna species found in Honduras.

"Every day I see with sadness how our lake is being exhausted. This winter the lakebed has not filled," Ubaldo Enamorado, of the Santa Bárbara region, told Tierramérica. "If we don't do something, the lake is going to die, and we will too."

Nearby communities are taking part in the rescue mission, with the aim of sowing more than a million plants. The project will take at least three years because most of the watershed is dry or extremely deforested, says Jorge Betancourt, of the Yojoa Lake Association of Municipalities.

As a result of deforestation, "the 13 main sources of water that supply the lake are seeing their flows decline dramatically," he explained.

 
 

NICARAGUA: Titanium Discovered

MANAGUA - A layer of chromium and titanium has been found in a Caribbean region of Nicaragua, holding some 200,000 tons, according to the calculations of the National Geological Resources Administration (ADGEO).

Titanium is a rare mineral, resistant to high temperatures. It is used in the bodies of spaceships, aircraft engines, missiles, computer components, electrical equipment and dental prostheses. Chromium is also very useful, such is in the manufacture of tools.

"Detailed geological studies must be conducted to determine whether the reserves in Nicaragua can be exploited," ADGEO director Jorge Prendiz told Tierramérica.

The metallic layer was found 20 km south of the mining city of Siuna, in the autonomous region of Atlántico Norte, as part of an exploratory study begun three years ago, he said.

Also found were gold, silver, iron, magnetite and "a large body" of calcium carbonate, which is used in making cement.



* Source: Inter Press Service.


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