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MERCOSUR: Invasion of the Golden Mussel

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil announced an emergency plan to fight the invasion of the golden mussel (Limnoperna fortunei), a plague throughout the entire Rio de la Plata river basin. Brasilia has asked its Mercosur (Southern Common Market) partners, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, to join in controlling invasive aquatic species.

These "invaders" are often carried in the ballast water that ships use for stability, and which they discharge in ports. The golden mussel reproduces rapidly and has no natural enemies in its new South American habitat, where it first appeared in 1991.

The mussels have created blockages in the pipes of the Argentine-Paraguayan hydroelectric project Yacyretá, and several Brazilian dams face similar threats.

Brazil's environment minister, Marina Silva, stresses that prevention is much more economically sound than fighting an invasion of exotic species after the fact.


CUBA: Forest Coverage Expands

HAVANA - Cuba increased the portion of its territory covered in forests from 13.4 to 23 percent through a strategy that incorporated the creation of forestry farms. Official figures show that forests today hold more than 130 million cubic meters of usable lumber and have potential to grow 7.5 million cubic meters annually.

The forestry programs expand the tree-covered area by 50,000 hectares each year, while logging involves less than 20,000 hectares. Unregulated logging from the early 15th century through the first half of the 20th century reduced the island's natural tree coverage by 13.4 percent.

On the forestry farms, numbering 700 across the country, experts use techniques to promote and preserve native species, and to prevent fires, a leading cause of the forest destruction in Cuba.


VENEZUELA: Once Parched, Now Flooded

CARACAS - Yearned for during months of intense drought, Venezuela's rainy season, which normally lasts from May to October, has arrived -- and in a most frightening way.

A six-month-old girl and a 32-year-old man drowned in the flooding of the Guaire River in Caracas, and dozens of families lost their homes. Emergency workers have evacuated 50 homes in the eastern district of the capital.

In the southwest region bordering Colombian and to the south of Lake Maracaibo, villages and roads have been inundated.

The destruction of the forests "and the insufficiency of rainfall drainage systems in places where illegal construction is on the rise, means that sediment is deposited along roadways and access is blocked," says Jorge Molina, head of the disaster management department for the metropolitan fire department.

"We lose count of the number of three or four story homes built in inappropriate places. Urban growth keeps expanding and doesn't respect the environmental parameters," he said.


SOUTH AMERICA: Lawmakers and Activists for Renewable Energy

SANTIAGO - Members of the Latin American Parliament and leaders of civil society organizations gathered in the Chilean capital to promote development in South America of public policies that incorporate renewable and sustainable sources into the energy matrix.

The two-day meeting last week, organized by the Latin American Parliament's energy commission and the Sustainable Southern Cone Program, drew delegations from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, which met at the offices of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The meet was part of the region's preparations for the World Conference on Renewable Energy to take place in Bonn in June.

The local group Sustainable Chile said the current crisis of natural gas supplies from Argentina to Chile should prompt profound reforms of the country's energy matrix and that of South America in general, and that alternative renewable sources should be pursued.


ITALY: Condemnation of Canadian Seal Hunt

MILAN - The expansion of the seal hunt in Canada is "unacceptable" and Italy's lawmakers are asking the government to take action against it, as have the United States and Belgium, Valerio Calzolaio, secretary of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, told Tierramérica.

The lower house's foreign affairs committee issued a resolution on Apr. 27 condemning the killing of seals in Canada, where the government has increased the quota to one million animals that can be hunted over the next three years.

In reaction to the move, the United States and Belgium have banned trade and sales of sealskins and other seal products.

Italy is among the world's leading producers of coats and other clothing items made from seal skin, and is a major importer of seal oil used for human consumption.

At least 40 percent of the sealskins Italy imports come from Canada.

Calzolaio says new legislation is essential for regulating the country's fur fashion industry.


HONDURAS: Priest to Lead March for Life, Environment

TEGUCIGALPA - Roman Catholic priest Andrés Tamayo, an environmental activist, is preparing to lead the Jun. 24 "National March for Life" in Honduras, aimed at forcing the government to take steps against deforestation and unregulated mining.

Tamayo told Tierramérica that the illegal logging problem continues in the northeastern department of Olancho and that "the commitments established by the government remain inactive. We are losing the forests. Illegal logging has not stopped, and in some parts of the country mining exploration and exploitation are full of irregularities."

"There is no other solution but to launch a national mobilization that is peaceful but compelling to tell the government that we expect answers," added the priest, who has already begun touring the country to promote the march.

Of Salvadoran nationality, Tamayo headed a June 2003 march in Olancho, where he has lived for the past 20 years. The event focused on creating awareness to protect area forests and was considered a success.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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