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ARGENTINA: Logging Threatens Las Yungas Jungle

BUENOS AIRES - A large portion of Las Yungas jungle in northwest Argentina could disappear over the next five years if plans are approved for a company that wants to clear 1,400 hectares in order to expand its sugarcane plantation, warn environmentalists.

Ecological, scientific and labor organizations are asking the provincial and national authorities to halt the clearing operations, because the most vulnerable section of the forest, which holds 30 percent of all species in Las Yungas, could become extinct by 2008.

Las Yungas, which extends across Jujuy and Salta provinces, covers just two percent of Argentine territory but is home to half of its biodiversity, including the largest wildcat of South America, the 'yaguareté' (Panthera onca), and more than 60 percent of Argentina's bird species.


COLOMBIA:Youth Sustainable Development Summit

BOGOTA - Youth experiences, actions and projects for improving the status of the environment will be presented at the First Global Summit on Youth Initiatives for Sustainable Development, to be held Aug. 26-30 in the Colombian Caribbean city of Cartagena.

The event is being organized by the non-governmental Tayrona Group Corporation, with backing from the Colombian Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development.

A the meeting, delegates from around the world will look at youth challenges in the context of countries' compliance with the agreements made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.


MEXICO: Junk in the Lungs

MEXICO CITY - The Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico (UAM) is studying the quantities and composition of the particulates measuring around 2.5 micrometers that circulate in the atmosphere of the Mexican capital.

Because of their size, the tiny particles can penetrate the depths of the human lung, contributing to emphysema and cancer, say medical experts.

The poor air quality in Mexico City and its surroundings, home to 20 million people, leads to some 35,000 deaths each year, according to studies by the municipal government.

The principal threats are the emissions produced by transport and industry, as well as other sources, which reach 2.5 million tons of particulate matter annually.

But the current study does not involve the even finer particles, which can contain aluminum, lead, cadmium and silica.

The investigation "will contribute towards defining future standards for regulating emissions," says Violeta Mugica, researcher at the UAM's Department of Basic Sciences.


PERU: Expanding Debate on Water Law

LIMA - Peru's President Alejandro Toledo assured that he does not intend to privatize water services and agreed to extend public debate on a legislative bill by 150 days, after farmers engaged in protests in May that shut down roads and bridges at 64 locations throughout the country.

Agricultural leaders say that the draft plan, released in late April, proposes a water market through concessions to companies for administration and commercial exploitation, which would concede the private sector rights over this essential resource, allowing companies to control farm activities and increase rates.

The distribution of water for irrigation in each valley is now based on the total area of farmable land belonging to each landowner.


GUATEMALA: Environmental Laws Need Enforcement

GUATEMALA CITY - The Guatemalan Center for Legal Environmental and Social Action (CALAS) has asked President Alfonso Portillo to enforce the laws for protecting natural resources and to step up activity at the Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against the Environment.

"This government promised an ambitious environmental policy, but is not going to change the laws before the end of the term in January 2004, so we have asked that they reinforce the prosecutor's office for going after eco-crimes," CALAS consultant Edwin Garzona told Tierramérica.

"We are also asking that they enforce the existing laws for fighting deforestation and lumber theft," he said. The authorities are currently engaged in more than 20 lawsuits against companies and individuals accused of illegal logging and lumber trade.

CALAS is demanding a "coherent policy" against those who commit ecological crimes related to the forests, including those responsible for fires.

Guatemalan law establishes penalties of less than a year in prison and fines of 640 to 12,820 dollars for persons found guilty of intentionally setting forest fires.


HONDURAS: A Month of Coffee News

TEGUCIGALPA - The Coffee News agency, founded in Honduras to disseminate information about production and marketing of this farm commodity, has reached the one-month mark in its effort to give local growers a boost in spite of the sluggish international coffee market.

The agency is sponsored by the Britain-based Oxfam, a non-governmental humanitarian organization, with the aim of promoting policies that benefit Honduran coffee growers, Lucila Funes, in charge of the information campaign, told Tierramérica.

'Café Noticias' is a weekly service that has penetrated the national media market, and has awakened interest throughout the coffee production chain, including business executives and government officials, says Funes.

According to official figures, Honduran coffee exports will fall 30 percent this year with respect to the 3.4 million 45-kilo sacks of the bean sold abroad in 2002.

Oxfam last year launched an international campaign so that Central American coffee would enter the international market in the "fair price" category.


PANAMA: Bay Clean Up Requires Pollution Prevention

PANAMA CITY - The plan to clean up the Bay of Panama, on the Pacific coast, will be only a half solution to the problem if the causes behind the contamination are not tackled, says Panama's environmental prosecutor, Giovanni Olmos.

The Panamanian government signed a contract in late May with the Hazen & Sawyer company to design sewage and sanitation networks and to draft plans to improve the existing systems.

But if the bay is to recover from being the destination of the liquid waste and sewage coming from Panama City -- home to 750,000 people, it will require "compliance with the rules on discharge into bodies of water and the state must be firm in sanctioning the polluters," said Olmos.

According to the official timeline, the work to clean up the city and a 350-square-km area of the Bay of Panama will be completed in 10 to 12 years. But the period could be extended to 25 years if measures are not implemented to prevent further environmental damage, said the official.

The project is being financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a sum of 3.7 million dollars.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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