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COLOMBIA: Holy Week, but No Palm Fronds

BOGOTA - Colombia's Environment Ministry and Bogotá's Botanical Garden have launched the ''Reconcile with Nature'' campaign to prevent the use of the fronds of the wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) in the celebrations of Christianity's Holy Week.

Illegal harvest of this tree in the central and southern parts of the country harm the only habitat of the yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis), an endangered species found only in Colombia's Tolima and Antioquía departments, Luz Cortés, of Conservation International-Colombia, told Tierramérica.

''We want to raise public awareness about protecting vulnerable species like the wax palm,'' said Environment Minister Sandra Suárez, who recommended using other types for Holy Week festivities, such as the iraca and areca palm branches.


MEXICO: 'Export' of Law on Transgenics?

MEXICO CITY - The environmental watchdog group Greenpeace warned that the new Mexican law on biosecurity for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) --opposed by environmentalists, a group of farmers, and scientists -- could be used as a model for similar legislation in Central America.

''We are worried because in countries like El Salvador and others they are thinking about taking the content of the Mexican law and replicating it in creating their own laws,'' Areli Carreón, coordinator of the Greenpeace genetic engineering campaign, told Tierramérica.

Activists oppose the law on Biosecurity for Genetically Modified Organisms, approved by Mexican lawmakers on Feb. 15, because they say it has loopholes and would allow cultivation of GMOs throughout the country, endangering the environment.

Carreón says the content of the Mexican law, which activists say was drafted under pressure from the transnational companies that dominate the global transgenics market, is a bad example to follow for any Latin American or Caribbean country.


PERU: Oil Companies Resist Ethanol

LIMA - Sugarcane growers in Peru are demanding that the government comply with the law on Promotion of Bio-Fuel Market, in effect since Jan. 1, and which obligates petroleum refineries to replace the lead in gasoline with ethanol.

This substitution -- which would be a boon to the sugar industry -- is one of the measures Peru is to adopt in order to reduce emissions of air pollutants and to comply with the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which took effect Feb. 16.

But the refineries are resisting production of fuel with 10 percent ethanol because it would drive up costs, and they have stopped implementation of the law by putting of definition of regulations.

The Cartavio sugar mill built a two-million-dollar plant with a capacity to produce 15 million liters of ethanol a year, a quarter of the estimated demand once the law is applied, said the firm's general manager Jorge Bustamante.


HONDURAS: $320 Million to Fight Water Shortage

TEGUCIGALPA - Honduran authorities need 320 million dollars to build a reservoir for potable water in the capital, where tight rationing of water supplies has been in effect because of a dry summer and the climate phenomenon known as El Niño.

La Concepción and Los Laureles reservoirs, which supply water to more than a million of Tegucigalpa's residents, are not enough, and alternatives are being sought to resolve water supply problems over the next 14 years, Francisco Herrera, an official with the national water service agency, told Tierramérica.

The government is considering building a dam in the Guacerique district, near the capital, and would have a capacity for 60 million cubic meters of water.

La Concepción and Los Laureles can hold 33 million and 10 million cubic meters, respectively.

The government began rationing potable water supplies at the end of January. If action is not taken now, say experts, water shortages will only worsen in the next two years.


GUATEMALA: To Jail for Littering

GUATEMALA CITY - The municipal government of Quiché, a tourist destination in central Guatemala, will send anyone who dumps trash in the streets to prison for 10 to 60 days.

Enforcement of this city law will be up to the municipal police.

City secretary Manuel Pérez told Tierramérica that Mayor Delfino Natareno ''will personally present the charges against anyone who litters before the municipal affairs court.''

''With so much garbage in the streets, it's disheartening to go for a walk. The poor state of our streets is embarrassing,'' he said.

Residents will have to pay one of the two garbage collection companies, which make their rounds three times a week, said the official.


* Source: Inter Press Service.

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