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GLOBAL: Demands to Eliminate Farm Subsidies

HAVANA - Heads of state and of government meeting in Cuba urged the WTO Fifth Ministerial Conference, this week in the Mexican city of Cancun, to speed up the process of progressive elimination of agricultural subsidies.

The impact of these subsidies on agriculture and urban development -- and as a result, desertification -- must be taken into account, said the leaders.

The Havana Declaration was signed at the close of the Sixth Conference of Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification, which met here Aug. 25 to Sep. 5.

The national leaders, mostly from developing countries, underscored the economic and political context of desertification, a gradual loss of soil productivity and vegetation caused by human activities and climate variations.


PERU: Alcohol Replaces Lead in Fuel

LIMA - Peru will begin to reduce the proportion of lead in 84-octane gasoline by mixing in ethanol -- ethyl alcohol -- a non-contaminating substance produced from sugarcane.

The lead utilized by the oil industry to elevate gasoline octane worsens the atmospheric contamination produced by the combustion of fossil fuels.

Since August, the state-run oil company Petroperu is importing 70 barrels of ethanol a day, as the country does not produce sufficient sugarcane to meet demand.

But a government program, part of the effort to replace illegal coca crops, aims to increase sugarcane plantations by 30,000 hectares in the northern jungles over the next two years.


ARGENTINA: A Call to Protect Wetlands

BUENOS AIRES - Non-governmental organizations in Argentina are proposing a "protected corridor" along the northeastern border, the country's principal source of freshwater.

The Wetlands Corridor would cover the Paraná and Paraguay river basins, which extend 800 km across five provinces before reaching the Rio de la Plata.

The conservationists want the area to be declared a Ramsar site, in other words, protected by the Convention on Wetlands signed in that Iranian city, promoting the sustainable use of aquatic ecosystems.


MEXICO: Minister Replacement Criticized

MEXICO CITY - Mexico announced a swap in the post of environment minister Sep. 2, winning condemnation from environmental groups.

"The replacement of the environment secretary is an indication of the ignorance and disinterest of President (Vicente) Fox when it comes to ecology," Homero Aridjis, president of the environmentalist Group of 100, told Tierramérica.

Fox removed environment minister Victor Lichtinger, an environmental expert who was not active in party politics, and replaced him with Alberto Cárdenas, former governor of Jalisco state, and member of the governing National Action Party.

The environment watchdog Greenpeace expressed "profound disappointment in what looks more like a political accommodation than a search for solutions to the country's environmental problems."


HONDURAS: 5,000 Trees Planted

TEGUCIGALPA - Some 5,000 trees were planted in the first month of a reforestation campaign carried out by residents of the southern Honduran community of Orocuina, in the highly desertified Choluteca department.

Fernando Cruz, mayor of this town of 16,000, told Tierramérica that the goal of the "Trees for Life" program is to plant 10,000 trees in the area.

With 240 families from nine communities participating in the effort, the aim is to establish tree nurseries and continue planting in order to conserve soils, as well as involve citizens in resolving environmental problems, explained Cruz.


COSTA RICA: Marine Park Clean-Up

SAN JOSE - Costa Rican citizens are joining a global environmental campaign by cleaning up the National Whale Marine Park, on the Pacific coast, where tourism has taken its toll, says the United Nations Environment Program.

Thousands of volunteers in Central and South America will mobilize Sep. 19-21 to clean up rivers, lake, streams, ravines and coastal areas.

The National Whale Marine Park, in the Cortés district, was founded in December 1989 and covers 110 hectares of land and 5,375 hectares at sea.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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