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NICARAGUA: Better Forestry Practices

MANAGUA - The World Wildlife Fund is promoting voluntary certification programs in Nicaragua for lumber processors and furniture factories committed to sustainable development of forests.

Of 700,000 hectares of certified forests in Central America, Nicaragua holds at least 20,000, and the WWF considers it a priority to improve the situation, Steve, Gretsinger, the fund's regional forestry director, told Tierramérica.

Certifying products come from properly managed forests is a mechanism for halting deforestation and offers concrete benefits, such as more sales and broader acceptance on the market, he said.

The WWF has set up its second forestry business network in the region, known as Jagwood+, and has already certified four companies that produce or process lumber.

The Nicaraguan government is supporting the initiative through related laws and in the search for markets so that more companies will apply for certification.


VENEZUELA: Stolen Flamingoes

CARACAS - Hundreds of pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) chicks -- perhaps as many as 1,500 -- have been stolen during the past few weeks from Los Olivitos Marsh wildlife refuge, near the Caribbean and Maracaibo Lake, in northwest Venezuela.
The authorities were tipped off by anonymous reports.

Los Olivitos Marsh covers more than 25,000 hectares and is home to some 20,000 flamingoes, more than half the population of these birds in the country, according to projections based on the censuses conducted in 1996 and 1998.

These colorful, long-legged birds leave the marsh in March and return in July, and "there are still some 2,000 females nesting," says Beatriz Nava, of the environmental group Azul, which is demanding closer monitoring and protection of the area.

Officials searched 95 fishing boats and 22 small cargo vessels without finding any trace of the stolen birds. Experts from governmental Institute of Parks normally places identification rings on the flamingo chicks.


HONDURAS: Ban on Building Near Dams

TEGUCIGALPA - The Honduran Environmental Prosecutor and the Secretariat of Natural Resources are to issue a new regulation on Feb. 13 that bans construction near the dams and reservoirs that supply water to the capital.

The problems affecting the potable water system in Tegucigalpa are in part the result of "severe deforestation of its main watersheds, to the point that it is believed that one of them has only five years of useful life left," environmental prosecutor Mario Chinchilla told Tierramérica.

"We are running out of water sources and the city is growing rapidly and uncontrollably. Entire hills have been cleared in order to build homes. We must urgently prohibit construction," he said.

Chinchilla announced that the new regulation would eventually apply to the entire country. Every summer, to attend to the higher demand, Tegucigalpa must ration its potable water six to 10 hours a day.


CUBA: Wind Blows, Fields Watered

HAVANA - Cuba has introduced wind energy into its farm irrigation systems. This renewable energy source has long been used to pump water for most of the country's cattle and dairy farms.

In Pinar del Río, 176 km west of Havana, some 190 windmills are now part of the rural landscape, providing energy for irrigating fields of vegetables. The windmills are part of government plans to save on fossil fuel use.

Experts consider the use of wind energy on this socialist-run island will be especially effective in meeting local demands immediately, while complementing the energy production of the National Electric System.

One of the regions with greatest possibilities for exploiting wind for energy is in the north of Camaguey province, 570 km from the capital.


CHILE: New Environmental Chief

SANTIAGO - Paulina Saball, a social worker with a background in urban development, was named by Chile's President Ricardo Lagos to head the National Environmental Commission (CONAMA) after the contentious resignation of her predecessor, Gianni López.

Saball, who since 1999 has served as deputy minister of national assets, will take over the CONAMA post on Feb. 25. She will be the third woman to hold that office.

López's resignation, triggered by a controversial legislative bill on "environmental clean-up bonds", brought to light -- say environmentalists -- the weakness of the Chilean government is this area. CONAMA is an agency of what is known as the General Secretariat of the Presidency, which is seen as subject to political pressures.

On Feb. 2, as Lagos announced his acceptance of López's resignation and the designation of Saball, the non-governmental Terram Foundation presented a proposed institutional reform to give CONAMA autonomy and certify it as a technical entity.


BRAZIL: Alert Against Bird Flu

RIO DE JANEIRO - The Brazilian government is preparing preventive measures against avian flu, a disease that has spread among birds in a dozen Asian countries, and is considered unlikely to reach this South American country.

But officials are considering requiring the disinfection of shoes of people coming to Brazil from the affected countries, as well as other products and aircraft. A ban has already been enacted for imports of chicken and byproducts from the Asian nations.

Three research centers have been equipped to identify the H5N1 virus that causes the disease. In suspected cases, the infected person will be placed in isolation, said expert Terezinha de Paiva, in charge of bird flu affairs at the Adolfo Lutz Institute in Sao Paulo.

The concern is related to both health and trade. Brazil exported 1,800 million dollars in chickens in 2003, and is conquering markets that have cut off imports from the affected Asian countries. Brazil would lose that advantage if the disease appears in this country.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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