AMAZON: Fight Against
RIO DE JANEIRO - Mercury in the
rivers of the Amazon region is threatening the environment
and human health, says the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty
Organization (OTCA), which is discussing action plans
for curbing contamination from this heavy metal in
the eight countries with Amazonian territory.
In 2002, Brazil's Health Ministry examined 1,666 newborns
in Itaituba, a municipality of the northern state
of Pará, and found that 1,000 of them, or 60 percent,
had high levels of mercury in their blood. Mercury
affects the nervous system, the kidneys, and joints.
Brazil's environment minister Marina Silva herself
suffers the effects of mercury contamination during
her childhood, growing up in the Amazon.
Informal, unregulated gold mining, which was widespread
in Itaituba, is the main source of mercury in the
rivers, and is concentrated in the meat of fish, a
food staple of the human inhabitants of the Amazon
CHILE: Cellulose Plant
PUERTO MONTT - The Chilean regional
environmental commission, COREMA, resolved to maintain
the closure of the Arauco Constitución cellulose plant
in Valdivia, in southern Chile, until it complies
with four requisites for preventing contamination
of the Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary.
The requirements are: an external audit, on-line monitoring,
disabling a duct that connected production waste to
water supplies, and a contingency plan for dealing
with temperatures, acidity and oils beyond the authorized
Moving the factory is ''the only viable solution for
ensuring that the nature sanctuary recovers and the
return of the swans and other species affected,''
Gonzalo Villarino, Greenpeace Chile director, told
The yearly average of black-necked swans in the sanctuary
has long been 6,000, but in January there were just
942 counted, according to the national forestry agency.
CUBA: Kids Care for Havana
HAVANA - A university environmental
project implemented in several Havana schools aims
to raise environmental awareness amongst children
and adolescents for protecting the capital's bay,
an ecosystem contaminated by the city's domestic and
The ''We Believe in Hope'' program includes training
of university ''environmental promoters'' and student
interest groups in four of the 10 municipalities that
make up the Havana Bay watershed, inhabited by some
Through talks, workshops, community outreach, clean-up
campaigns and educational games, children and adolescents
will learn about what they can do to reverse the degradation
of Havana Bay, environmental education expert Yordanis
Puerta de Armas told Tierramérica.
VENEZUELA: Rescuing Nurse
CARACAS - Ten small nurse sharks
(Ginglymostoma cirratum) whose mother was sold by
fisherman were rescued off Venezuela's Margarita Island
by scientists from the Shark Research Center.
''They are in good condition. This species is resistant
to handling and that is an advantage for conducting
studies,'' researcher Rafael Tavares told Tierramérica.
In his opinion, populations of other species, like
the blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) and the
blacknose shark (Carcharhinus acronotus) have decline
in the southeast Caribbean due to overexploitation.
There are no restrictions on commercial shark fishing
in Venezuela, and the young ones are in high demand
for some traditional dishes. ''It is common to see
pregnant female sharks caught, particularly during
the mating and birth seasons,'' said Tavares.
GUATEMALA: New Traffic
Route for Capital
GUATEMALA CITY - National and
city authorities are planning to build a second ''ring''
highway around the capital in a bid to ease traffic
The aim is also to reduce air pollution produced by
the vehicles in Guatemala City, the largest in Central
America, deputy communications minister Federico Moreno
Construction of the new Metropolitan Loop, to run
64 km and cost some 1.05 billion dollars, is to begin
this year, and completed in mid-2007. Taiwan has expressed
interest in executing the project, according to Moreno.
On Jan. 12, the Central American Economic Integration
Bank signed a cooperation agreement with Guatemala
for 500,000 dollars, non-repayable, for studies of
three mega-projects, including the new highway.
HONDURAS: Promoting Vegetable
Oil for Cars
TEGUCIGALPA - A group of U.S.
experts with the environmental group Sustainable Solutions
Caravan proposed to government officials and civil
society groups in Honduras the use of ''bio-fuel''
for cars as a means to reduce pollution.
They demonstrated the approach with their bus that
runs on vegetable oil -- and has been traveling through
Central America since December.
Two tanks of vegetable oil and a little diesel to
warm the engines is ''all that you need to travel
comfortably in a car without hurting the environment,''
Stephen Brooks, one of the 15 promoting the initiative,
The group wants to show the world ''that it is still
feasible to live on the planet without hurting or
destroying it.'' The Caravan also promotes building
homes from bamboo and plastic, farming using organic
techniques, and using solar energy. The next stop
for the bio-fuel bus is Costa Rica.