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CHILE: Drought-Resistant Eucalyptus Cloned

SANTIAGO - Eucalyptus trees resistant to drought have been cloned -- reproduced through genetic manipulation -- for reforestation plans and forestry development in Chile's arid zones.

On May 22 came the announcement of the project's success in Los Vilos, a town 225 km north of Santiago, the gateway to the semi-desert region of Coquimbo, where the main economic activities are mining, fishing and small-scale farming.

Mauricio Cañoles, of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation, explained to Tierramérica that forestry productivity has been increased in arid and semi-arid lands planted with two types of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Eucalyptus cladocalyx).

The governmental forestry institute will soon make these trees available for widespread cultivation.


CUBA: Alert for 2006 Hurricane Season

HAVANA - A good portion of Cuba's 11.2 million people participated May 20-21 in the extreme weather drill organized by the government to test the disaster prevention system ahead of the hurricane season's official start date: June 1.

Maritza Ballester, of the Cuban Meteorology Institute, told Tierramérica there is a "75 percent probability that at least one hurricane will hit Cuba" this season, which ends Nov. 30.

The institute's forecast center predicts a minimum of 15 tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin in 2006, nine of which could turn into hurricanes, with winds of 118 km per hour, or more.

In 2005, three hurricanes hit Cuba, causing damages estimated at more than 1.3 billion dollars.


VENEZUELA: Biodiversity Contest

CARACAS - The environmental organization Vitalis convened on May 22 a contest of ideas to learn about and preserve Venezuelan biodiversity, targeting university students from all fields and a awarding a trip to Germany for the 10 project winners.

Venezuela has "advanced legislation, which declares as public utility the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as well as restoration and environmental services," which requires "sharing knowledge and ideas of young people," Vitalis president Diego Díaz told Tierramérica.

Díaz noted that Venezuela is one of the planet's 12 most megadiverse countries, with some 117,000 species registered, including 16,000 higher plants, 1,380 birds, 355 mammals, 341 reptiles, 284 amphibians and 1,800 fish species. The deadline for presenting proposals is September.


BRAZIL: New Formula for Cleaner Diesel

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's national oil giant Petrobras has developed the formula H-Bio, which adds hydrogenated vegetable oil to diesel, improving the quality of the fuel and reducing pollution.

The innovation, which will make its debut in 2007 with 10 percent vegetable oil but is effective with up to 18 percent, promises to expand agriculture-based energy sources and contribute to improving the global environment.

Brazil will thus reduce its diesel imports and open a new market for plant-based oils -- which is a cause of concern to some environmental groups.

The negative side is that it would increase monoculture of soybeans, which contributes to the deforestation of the Amazon and other ecosystems, Délcio Rodrigues, energy expert for the environmental group Vitae Civilis, told Tierramérica.


GUATEMALA: Fisherfolk Clean Contaminated Lake

GUATEMALA CITY - Dozens of artisanal fisherfolk have been working since early May on a project to clean up the northern Guatemalan lake of Petén Itzá, overrun with waterlilies (Nymphaea) and contaminated with other solid waste.

"We have limited resources but we hope to obtain more funds to continue cleaning the lake until the end of the year," Mario Castellanos, director of the area's Sustainable Management and Development Authority, said in a Tierramérica interview.

In addition to cleaning the environment and giving a boost to tourism, the project aims to preserve species like the white fish (Petenia esplendida), native to El Petén department.

There are 21 participants in the project, most of them fisherfolk using their boats and canoes to drag invasive water plants to the shore.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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