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MEXICO: Whales in Danger

MEXICO CITY - Dozens of female gray whales that are pregnant, many of which are ready to give birth, began to arrive this month in the Sea of Cortez, off the Mexican state of Baja California, in keeping with a natural cycle that could come to an end if tourism development plans continue, say environmentalists.

''The concern is that the government (of President Vicente Fox) will follow through with its plans that threaten the whales and other species in Baja California in silence, in secret,'' Homero Aridjis, president of the environmental Group of 100, told Tierramérica.

The whales arrive from the Arctic, gathering in an area where there is intensive real estate development. The government also plans to establish the zone as a stop for cruise ships from all over the world, including the construction of 20 ports to attract more such tourists.

According to Aridjis, although the project seems to be on the decline due to the strong opposition by environmentalists, '' the danger of destruction remains latent.'' The Sea of Cortez is considered a sanctuary for gray whales, sea lions, sea turtles, and other marine animals.


COLOMBIA: Reforestation Means Jobs for Peasants

BOGOTA - The Regional Corporation of Quindío in Colombia carried out activities aimed at re-establishing ecosystems and forests, generating employment for at least 90 families, as part of the 2004-2006 Action Plan.

Carlos Gómez, director of this policy agency in the central department of Quindío, told Tierramérica that this plan, which also focuses on revaluing water as an integral part of life, seeks to involve citizens in recovery of the watershed areas, and to stimulate conservation-friendly investment.

As part of the project, some 40 hectares were reforested in the areas around the rivers that flow through the municipalities of Calarcá, Armenia, Filandia and Pijao.

According to official reports, the Colombian report is deteriorating rapidly with the annual destruction of 100,000 hectares of forest and ever-advancing erosion.


PERU: Demands for Guarantees from Mining Companies

LIMA - The concession-holders of mining contracts in Peru will have to put forth financial guarantees -- titles, shares or cash -- to pay for potential environmental damage from their operations if a bill presented by Congressman Jaime Velásquez is passed.

Since 1991, the mining contracts obligate the companies to develop environmental management programs to reverse the negative effects of their operations, but Velásquez said that 11 companies are behind in executing 40 such programs, and that his ''will cause serious health problems and ecological degradation.''

The lawmaker expressed his concern to Tierramérica, saying, ''when these companies exhaust the mines and leave the country, there will be nobody to hold responsible.''

The president of the central Peruvian region of Pasco, Victor Espinoza, estimates it would cost more than 200 million dollars to clean up Lake Junín, contaminated by mining companies that no longer operate in the country.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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