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Eco-briefs

 
 

CHILE: Aymaras Grow Food for Vicuñas

SANTIAGO - Thirty indigenous ranchers in Chile's extreme north will be the first beneficiaries of a project for growing forage plants to feed vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna), a member of the South American Andes llama family.

The effort by the Aymara Indians will contribute towards reversing the constant forage deficit in the Chilean high plains.

The dry season from April to December, low temperatures, and daily cycles of freezing and thawing at more than 3,000 meters above sea level limit the growth of the plants used for animal feed.

Highly adaptable plants, such as Trifolium repens, Festuca arundinacea and Lolium perenne, will be grown to feed the vicuñas, which have been in danger of extinction since the 1980s and whose wool fetches top prices.

 
 

CUBA: Coffee Grown with Its Own Waste

HAVANA - Coffee growers in eastern Cuba have significantly increased production with the application of fertilizer made from the waste material produced in processing the coffee for consumption.

The yield of 30 hectares of the Guantánamo Coffee Plantation grew from 0.14 to 0.40 tons per hectare over the past three years of using the organic fertilizer, produced from the decomposed pulp.

The coffee waste can be environmentally harmful if dumped in or near water sources, but as a biological application it reduces the environmental impact of the coffee industry while providing much-needed microorganisms for the soil.

 
 

UNITED STATES: Fires Threaten Wildlife

SAN FRANCISCO - Experts warn that it will take months or years for condor, deer, bear and other species to recover from the destruction of their habitat that occurred in the forest fires of late October in the U.S. state of California.

"The intensity of the heat and the degree of soil damage will determine the rate of the ecosystem's recovery," James Patton, a professor at the University of Berkeley, told Tierramérica, adding that small mammals are best suited for a quick recovery due to their high reproductive rates.

But the status of the California condor, in danger of extinction, remains uncertain. The fires affected more than 1.8 million hectares of land, and reached the Hopper Mountain Wildlife Refuge, home to 41 of the 220 condors surviving in the United States.

The fires swept through San Diego, Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, killing 22 people and destroying 3,600 homes.

 
 

COSTA RICA: Bio-Pesticides on the Rise

SAN JOSE - The use of biological pesticides in Latin America could represent nine percent of the global total by 2008, with a value of 100 million dollars, said experts taking party in a symposium hosted by the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), in Costa Rica.

Bio-pesticides -- non-synthetic substances used to control crop pests -- represent two to three percent of the pesticide market in Central America.

But their use could increase 10 percent in the next decade, says Ulrich Roettger, adviser for GTZ, the German cooperation agency, in promotion of non-synthetic products.

The motives behind such growth would be the expanding demand for organic products in the international market and the increased resistance of pests and diseases to chemical pesticides.

Worldwide, 28 billion dollars are spent each year on controlling agricultural pests. One billion dollars of that sum represents biological pesticides.

 
 

NICARAGUA: Zoo's Residents in Danger

MANAGUA - Some 78 species of Nicaraguan fauna at the National Zoo lack the appropriate habitat for development and reproduction, the zoo's director, Marina Sacasa, told Tierramérica.

There are nearly 500 animals crowded into an area of 1.2 hectares, "a situation that obligates us to keep them in cages, and limits their reproduction."

In January, Sacasa issued an alert to save them, because the budget shortfall meant that many animals were going hungry. Although funds arrived, the problem has not been resolved.

The animals are also suffering as a result of the construction of a residential complex next to the zoo, on land sold by the government. The construction is a source of constant noise.

Sacasa says the government officials were "insensitive" in selling off the land without taking the needs of the zoo into account.

 
 

GUATEMALA: Mayan Sites Protected

GUATEMALA CITY - Congress has declared the Guatemalan Mayan archeological sites of Yaxhá, Nakum and Naranjo protected areas. Located in the northern department of El Petén, bordering Mexico, they are frequent targets for looters and vandals.

The sites are being protected because "they represent a legacy of the Mayan civilizations and a valuable inheritance for the country, one with enormous educational value," says the decree that the Guatemalan lawmakers approved on Oct. 28.

The protected area covers 37,160 hectares and will provide opportunities for sustainable development through the creation of jobs, environmental education, scientific research and controlled eco-tourism.

 
 

HONDURAS: Ex-Ambassador Visits Threatened Forest

TEGUCIGALPA - Former U.S. ambassador to Honduras and director of the Center for International Policy, Robert White, has called for protection of the forests in the northeast department of Olancho and the resolution of the June murder of environmentalist Carlos Reyes.

The main problems that Honduras faces are the environment, corruption and impunity, and the destruction of the Olancho forest is a "clear example" of community poverty while riches accumulate in the hands of the few, White told Tierramérica.

White, who served as ambassador in the 1960s, visited Olancho in October to learn about the environmental situation and how peasant farmers, led by Catholic priest Andrés Tamayo, are fighting to stop deforestation.

The Washington-based Center for International Policy will begin an Olancho forest protection plan aimed at prevention and monitoring, with periodic reports, the first to be presented this month.

 
 

BRAZIL: Fighting Ozone Pollution

RIO DE JANEIRO - The Sao Paulo government's environmental clean-up agency aims to reduce the proportion of olefins (volatile hydrocarbons) in gasoline from 30 to five percent in order to fight urban ozone pollution.

The reaction of olefins and nitrogen oxides, with the sun serving as the catalyst, produces ozone, a three-oxygen molecule. There were 82 days last year in which ozone in Sao Paulo reached levels that are harmful to human health.

In the stratosphere, the ozone layer serves to protect life on Earth, but in the lower atmosphere it is a pollutant that causes respiratory irritation, inflames lungs, and is risk factor for lung cancer, according to a study by the University of Sao Paulo.

The city's environmental agency plans to follow the example of industrialized countries, which were able to reduce ozone in their cities below five percent by cutting the levels of olefins in fuels.



* Source: Inter Press Service.


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