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Eco-briefs

 
 

CUBA: Mass Disappearance of Bats Skews Ecological Balance

HAVANA - Between 250,000 and half a million bats have disappeared from the Gato Jíbaro cave in the Cuban province of Matanzas, east of Havana, threatening area plant life, warn specialists.

"It is a major catastrophe. In the best case scenario, the animals migrated. Worst case -- they died," Ercilio Vento, president of the Cuban Speleological Society, told Tierramerica.

A key part of the ecological balance, the flying mammals consume insects, pollinate plants and disseminate seeds.

The bats were forced out by cockroaches that began invading the cave 10 years ago, attracted by waste discarded by a nearby food factory. A clean-up of the waste failed to dislodge the insects.

Cuba is home to 27 of the world’s approximately 2,000 bat species.

 
 

HONDURAS: Green Schools Look to the Future

TEGUCIGALPA - The Honduran government, backed by the business community, has introduced the “Green Schools” project to recover and preserve the main watersheds near Tegucigalpa.

The one-year project, which will eventually extend to other areas of the country, was launched Jul. 14 in three of the capital’s elementary schools, and will next be implemented in high schools. In it, children and youth between the ages of five and 18 will plant more than 2,000 trees.

Businessman Emilio Larach, one of the initiative’s main proponents and financial backers, told Tierramérica that the activity was not "just a field trip, but rather an effort to protect natural resources."

The first 200 trees were planted near the Los Laureles dam, south of Tegucigalpa -- one of the areas worst affected by deforestation.

 
 

CHILE: State-Run Mining Company Faces Investigation

SANTIAGO - Chile’s Chamber of Deputies voted unanimously to investigate the state-owned National Copper Corporation (Codelco), to determine its responsibilities in polluting the capital’s Carén estuary.

The mining company has a tailings reservoir near the estuary, a body of water that is used for irrigation and animal consumption.

A reservoir dam breach spilled 10,000 litres of liquid waste into the estuary, killing cattle and destroying wildlife.

The coordinator of the non-governmental Sustainable Chile Program, Sara Larraín, told Tierramérica that the "molybdenum and sulphate that has contaminated the entire estuary basin” is just one manifestation of a serious systemic problem -- the illegal approval of an environmental decree in 2005, which outlines waste-disposal parameters for Codelco that are less stringent than those for other companies.

 
 

GUATEMALA: Deforestation Spreading

GUATEMALA CITY - In Guatemala, an average of 73,148 hectares of forest disappears each year. The figures come from a Forest Cover Dynamics map created by the state-run National Forestry Institute (INB) and National Protected Areas Council and the private University del Valle.

The project, whose results were released Jul. 17, is the second of its kind in Guatemala, and expands on the previous 2001 study (whose results were published in 2004). The model is based on satellite images, explained Gerónimo Pérez, coordinator of INB’s Forestry Information Systems.

"A comparison of the two periods showed that the country lost approximately 0.68 of its forest cover each year," the expert told Tierramérica.

The northern department of Petén, bordering Mexico, suffered the highest deforestation rates -- 65 percent -- he added.

Two months ago the government launched the “Reverdecer Guatemala” (Reforesting Guatemala) program, which aims to plant 30 million trees.

 
 

BRAZIL: Clean Air for Latin American Cities

RIO DE JANEIRO - Sustainable transport that improves quality of life and reduces greenhouse gases is the theme of the Clean Air in Latin American Cities Initiative conference that is drawing experts, political leaders and environmentalists to Sao Paulo Jul. 25-27.

The Initiative, a cooperative instrument involving seven large cities, development agencies, private businesses, non-governmental organisations and academic institutions, has worked since 1998 to reduce urban pollution. The forum promotes training, fosters the sharing of experiences and technology, and acts as a catalyst to spark dialogue among the various sectors.

The conference marks the beginning of a new phase, whose main objective is to “consolidate a regional strategy to improve air quality,” through an institute designed to boost membership, funding and action plans, Sergio Sánchez, executive secretary with the Initiative, told Tierramérica.

 
 

VENEZUELA: Chávez Aims to Divert Sewage from River

CARACAS - Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez predicted the day will soon come when he can swim in the emblematic Guaire river, which flows eastward through Caracas for 53 of its 70 kilometres, picking up residential and industrial waste along the way.

He made the declaration when outlining clean-up programs after the recent inauguration of a new city subway line.

Environment Minister Jacqueline Farías told Tierramérica that "this dream will be within reach by October, when a system of new sewage collectors set approximately halfway down the river is put into operation."

While the system will reduce the flow of the Guaire, the river will be cleaner.

A treatment plant will be built on the Guaire just before the point in which it empties into the Tuy River. The 450-million-dollar project is scheduled to be completed by 2013, said Farías.



* Source: Inter Press Service.


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