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MEXICO: Taking the Planet's Pulse

MEXICO CITY - A high altitude climate observation center will begin operating in 2006 in Mexico, the first of its type in the Mesoamerican and Caribbean regions. Located at more than 4,000 meters above sea level, it will measure, among other things, levels of ozone and carbon dioxide, gases that are altering the planet's health.

"To make an analogy, we could say that from the new center we are going to take the blood pressure and measure the cholesterol and pulse of the planet," Luis Roberto Acosta, coordinator of the project and Mexican director of the International System for Environmental Monitoring.

It will be the 24th climate observation center in the world, and will be located at Cofre de Perote in Veracruz state, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The measuring instruments will be provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Ten years ago we saw the need to have a high altitude monitoring station in the Mesoamerican zone, and finally we have a timeline and the money to achieve that," said the scientist. The center will cost approximately 1.8 million dollars.


ARGENTINA: Alarm over Uranium Accident

BUENOS AIRES - Residents of the mountain resort city of San Carlos de Bariloche, in Argentina's southern Patagonia, expressed to Tierramérica their concern about an accident involving uranium at a plant near the city.

The accident happened last October at the Bariloche Atomic Center when two researchers were handling a uranium sample, and was played down by plant officials, despite the fact that those involved were under medical monitoring for four months.

Official information on the incident did not arrive until this month, long after unofficial reports began circulating.

"We aren't ecologists. We're residents concerned about the environment and we need to know," Concepción Moana, of the Limay Community neighborhood organization, told Tierramérica.

Incidents like this bring to the fore the dangers of having a plant like this just 10 km from the city and within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, she said.


GUATEMALA: Pollution Persists in Lake Atitlán

GUATEMALA CITY - Guatemala's Lake Atitlán, located 140 km west of the capital and considered the country's most beautiful, is contaminated with agrochemicals and human waste from nearby towns, restaurants and hotels.

Agrochemicals are used by 75 percent of the farmers with fields around the lake, whose surface covers around 130 square km, Julio Urrea, governor of the central-western department of Sololá, told Tierramérica.

The environmental authorities will launch a campaign against throwing garbage in streets and rivers, and will dredge the San Francisco River, the main source of contamination in the lake, he said.

The location of most of the irregular waste dumping sites results in contamination being carried to the lake by rain, Víctor Arriaza, delegate from the Atitlán Sustainable Management Authority, told Tierramérica.


AMAZON: Agro-Forest Management Agreement

LIMA - The promotion of agroforestry will be the economic strategy to improve the living standards of the population and protect the biodiversity of the Amazon and three other regions with rain forests, according to an agreement signed Jun. 24 in Washington by the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and Conservation International.

ICRAF is an international farm research center and CI is an environmental organization. Both are committed to joining efforts in the Amazon, the mountain ecosystems of China, the high altitude forests of Guinea and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.

Agroforestry is the integrated management of forestry and farming or livestock production, simultaneously or in succession. In the vulnerable soils of the tropical forests, it will be beneficial to balance "human needs and biodiversity conservation," Jonathan Cornelius, representative in Peru of ICRAF, told Tierramérica.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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