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BRAZIL: Tsunami Fizzles on Copacabana Beach

RIO DE JANEIRO - The giant waves that killed more than 150,000 people around the Indian Ocean reached this Brazilian coastal city, but had been reduced to small waves some 20 hours after the underwater earthquake the triggered the tragedy on Dec. 26.

Mitigated by a journey of more than 15,000 km, and imperceptible on the open sea, what had been a giant tsunami wave in India and Indonesia was just 40 cm high when it entered Guanabara Bay, according to Paulo Cesar Rosman, oceanic engineering professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Oceanographic institutions, as well as some coastal towns, reported ''atypical tides'', with rapid increases above the normal level, at several points ranging from Brazil's south to northeast. At the pier of a nautical club near Rio de Janeiro there was a variation of 1.6 meters in 17 minutes. The abnormal tide flooded 50 homes of fisherfolk living nearby.


GUATEMALA: A Green Belt for the Capital

GUATEMALA CITY - Officials in the Guatemalan capital are seeking a way to create a ''green belt'' to improve the environment and the flow of water through the city.

The aim is to recover 90 percent of the remaining vegetation cover, made up of ravines and rivers around the capital, the municipal government's environmental director, Susana Acencio, told Tierramérica.

''The ravines to the south of the valley hold approximately 12,500 hectares, most of which is well preserved, because there are not yet any human settlements there,'' she said.

The first step will be to create a geographic information system about the areas that will comprise the green belt. The second will be to design a management plan, which will include reforestation and decontaminating the rivers.

The municipality of Santa Catalina Pinula, adjacent to Guatemala City, will spend 390,000 dollars to recuperate and reforest the Pinula River basin, one of the sources of potable water for the more than two million residents of the capital.


COSTA RICA: Prevention Plans Come Up Short

MEXICO CITY - The torrential rains that hit Costa Rica last week, killing two people and causing economic losses that will surpass 20 million dollars, demonstrated the fragility of the country's disaster prevention systems, admitted an official source.

''We have an emergency network and we have educated the population on how to deal with them, but phenomena like (the heavy rains) reveal that we still have a lot to do,'' Lidier Esquivel, disaster management director for the Costa Rican National Risk Prevention Commission, told Tierramérica.

The Caribbean coast, affected by serious environmental problems, received a month's worth of rain in just three days.

''It was very difficult to anticipate the problem, because we didn't expect that volume of rain. However, also lacking was a more effective response from the population,'' Esquivel said in a phone interview from San José.


CHILE: Cellulose Plant Construction Halted

SANTIAGO - The regional environmental commission, COREMA, of Biobío, in southern Chile, ordered a stop to the construction of the Itata cellulose plant, which was designed for a production volume greater than what was authorized, as environmental groups denounced two months ago.

Itata, 480 km south of Santiago, is the property of Celulosa Arauco y Constitución (CELCO), of the Angelini Group, accused of causing a die-off of black-necked swans in the Río Cruces nature sanctuary in the southern province of Valdivia, from contamination caused by another cellulose plant.

The regional governor of Biobío, Jaime Tohá, explained to Tierramérica that CELCO had drastically modified the project proposal the firm had presented to COREMA, increasing its production forecast from 550,000 tons per year to 856,000 tons.


CUBA: Bays Increasingly Contaminated

HAVANA - Contamination from organic waste in Cuba's bays increased 2.3 percent during 2004, in contrast to a decline of 3.6 percent of the waste burden received by the island's eight main basins.

Reports from the Ministry of Sciences, Technology and Environment cited among the most contaminated Cárdenas Bay, 120 km from Havana, and those of Puerto Padre and Nipe, both in the east.

Cuba has some 20 bays, which serve as valuable natural resources. According to official studies, the waters of Havana Bay still show negative conditions, although the burden of 51,741 kg of organic material it receives daily is 63 percent less than the daily total in 1998.

Contamination is one of the main problems afflicting the marine environment and coastline in Cuba, along with erosion and increasing salinity.


VENEZUELA: Shrimp Granted a Visa for U.S.A.

CARACAS - The United States has lifted a ban that since the late 1990s prohibited entry of shrimp from Venezuela, saying the South American country now meets the international requirements for protecting sea turtles that accidentally get caught in the fishing nets.

''Now the shrimp nets have a sort of skylight, an elimination system that allows the turtles to escape. This prevents them from asphyxiating,'' Enzo Racca, of the governmental National Fishing Institute, told Tierramérica.

''Recovering the U.S. market has been a struggle. Now we hope to strengthen the connection, including other marine species,'' said Racca.

Venezuela produces around 15,000 tons of shrimp a year. Commercial shrimping is one of the most important fishing industries for Venezuela. Before this country exported 18 million dollars worth of shrimp to the United States annually.


* Source: Inter Press Service.

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