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GUATEMALA: More Royalties from Mining

GUATEMALA CITY - The Guatemalan Congress aims to increase from one to 10 percent the royalties that more than 400 mines of precious minerals must pay the government.

The initiative has the backing of the parliamentary commission and could be approved in early 2005, after the recess that began Dec. 1, legislative deputy Alfredo Cojtí, chair of the commission, told Tierramérica.

"There are 158 mines for exploiting different minerals, including 93 that are searching for gold, located in the central, eastern and western parts of the country," and another 260 companies are applying for gold, silver and nickel mining permits, he said.

This year there was a heated debate on mining between President Oscar Berger, who defends the industry, and Catholic cardinal Rodolfo Quezada, who rejects mining because of its potential harm, and challenges the environmental impact studies conducted by some companies, particularly the Canadian gold mining company Montana.


ARGENTINA: Activists Demand Cleaner Air

BUENOS AIRES - On the eve of the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Climate Change, Dec. 6-17 in the Argentine capital, hundreds of the country's environmental groups demanded that the government take concrete steps towards curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Gathered for the "Buen Aire" Forum, which is organizing the meeting of environmental groups in parallel to the Conference, the Argentine activists demanded policies for renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels, excluding nuclear power plants and big hydroelectric dams.

The also called for an end to clear-cutting of forests and requiring the provinces to establish environmental standards.

Finally, they warned of the impacts of sanitary landfills emitting methane, a greenhouse gas, and presented a project for sequestering these gases that retain heat in the atmosphere and thus contribute to global warming.


COLOMBIA: Devastating Rains

BOGOTA - Heavy rains falling in Colombia since September have claimed the lives of some 30 people and left more than 250,000 homeless, according to reports presented by local emergency committees.

On Nov. 26, in the northern city of Barranquilla, a four-hour torrential rain flooded several neighborhoods and three people disappeared in the heavy currents that resulted from the lack of appropriate run-off systems.

In Bogotá, 105 families from one neighborhood were affected by flooding, in the southern city of Ipiales a five-hour storm flooded 15 neighborhoods, and in the western city of Barbacoas more than 100 families lost their homes when nearby rivers overflowed their banks.

The rains have begun to diminish, but the Civil Defense director of Barranquilla, Mayor Jairo García, told Tierramérica that the population should remain on the alert, particularly in high-risk areas.


PERU: Decentralizing Environmental Programs

LIMA - The Metropolitan Municipal Council of Lima will ask Congress to decentralize environmental protection programs that are currently handled by the Ministry of Production.

Walter Menchola, president of the capital's Economic Commission, told Tierramérica that to do so would require a reform of the law on local and regional governments.

In a survey by the Environmental Regulation Office in 35 districts of Lima and Callao, 89 percent of respondents said they considered the environmental situation to be serious and 60 percent said they would be willing to pay a municipal tax to protect air and water quality, and to improve waste collection and management.

"Environmental protection does not depend only on regulations imposed from above. It requires the conscious and active participation of the population, which can be more effectively promoted through their local and regional authorities," commented Menchola.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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