CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- The chemistry department of the University of Carabobo in Valencia, central Venezuela, is investing the use of thermophile bacteria, which exist at temperatures of 40 to 60 degrees Celsius, as biological catalysts for destroying organic material that has contaminated Cabriales River and Lake Valencia.
The bacteria are taken from Las Trincheras hot springs. "It is a matter of using the proteins and enzymes that these bacteria produce to eliminate organic waste in industry and in lakes and rivers," says researcher Jeff Wilkesman.
These potential decontaminating agents produce two types of enzymes: protease, which degrade proteins and could destroy organic compounds in sewage, and glucanase, which feed on starches and could be useful in treating textile industry waste.
Desertification Threatens Migratory Birds
HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- Desertification threatens the hundreds of millions of migratory birds that cross the world's arid regions twice a year, warned experts at the conference of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), held here Aug. 25 to Sep. 5.
The relationship between arid lands and migratory birds requires the cooperation of international agreements that cover the two phenomena, said the conference participants.
With this aim, the UNCCD and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) signed a memorandum that will facilitate joint actions for preserving arid regions.
The UNCCD will incorporate issues related to migratory species in its action programs and will consult with the CMS on decisive aspects in their conservation.
Canine Disease Kills Foxes
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- Distemper, a disease that affects dogs in particular, is claiming the lives in Chile of culpeo and chilla foxes, both protected species, in the areas of Puerto Velero and Fray Jorge National Park, 350 km north of the capital
The Agriculture Ministry's farming and livestock service reported Sep. 8 that the distemper virus has been spread to the foxes by the dogs living in the area or accompanying hunters.
Since January 30 bodies have been found of the culpeo fox (Dusicyon culpaeus) and chilla fox (Pseudalopex griseus), but experts fear the death toll is much higher, as younger foxes and pups may have died inside their dens.
The authorities are studying a plan to revaccinate the dog population in the affected area, says veterinarian Miguel Stutzin, of the Wildlife Department.
Radio Dramas Promote Public Health
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The non-governmental League of Mental Hygiene has designed a radio theater program titled "Let's Go to the Market", which begins broadcast this month by 150 community radio stations here, and aims to improve the population's health.
The project, with financing from the organization Save the Children - Norway, centers on four pillars: children and adolescents, physical health, social reconstruction and mental health, League activists Claudia Anleu told Tierramérica.
Twenty radio dramas, with five chapters of six minutes each, will be accompanied by a listener's guide.
"We chose the community radio stations because they have greater reach in the country's interior, but lack production resources, so we drew up a production plan that is short and educational," said Anleu.
Barrels of Dangerous Toxin
SAN SALVADOR, (Tierramérica).- A third of the 92 barrels with the dangerous agro-chemical toxaphene, abandoned in the eastern Salvadoran city of San Miguel, are damaged and are contaminating the air, soil and water, report environmental groups, including CESTA-Friends of the Earth.
Since the lethal stockpile was discovered in February, the authorities have built a retention wall around the warehouse, Italo Córdoba, an environment ministry official, told Tierramérica.
If the substance leaks, it would be difficult to clean up, said Córdoba, noting that toxaphene can be detected by its strong odor.
According to environmentalists, the toxic chemical has affected the health of the people living near the warehouse, but the Health Ministry says it has not received any such reports.
Replacing Maize with Soy
TEGUCIGALPA, (Tierramérica).- A tropical mold has forced maize growers in the northeastern Honduran department of Olancho to replace that crop with soy, vice-minister of agriculture José María Ordóñez, told Tierramérica.
Honduran authorities asked the Mexico-based International Center for Improved Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT) to conduct a study of the mold, which led to the recommendation of soy cultivation in order to decontaminate the soil and break the plant disease cycle.
The mold causes early maturity in maize plans, which then dry up. The plants that do survive produce a small, opaque, yellow grain.
CIMMYT says that soy is resistant to the pest and its cultivation should be relatively easy in the Olancho area, where maize is the principal food.
Reusing Urban Wastewater
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- Researchers at the University of Brasilia, who have been studying water reuse since 1996, support local projects with the aim of saving 60 percent of urban water consumption.
The water used in baths and showers and kitchens is recycled to be used in sewage systems of the same building.
Reuse of so-called "gray" water reduces the use of water from aquifers, saves energy in water transport, and reduces contamination from liquid waste, says Marco Antonio de Souza, professor at the University of Brasilia.
Sao Caetano do Sul, a city of 140,000 people in the Sao Paulo metro region, is a pioneer in efforts to use recycled water for street cleaning and irrigation.
Big companies, like the state-owned Petrobrás, are following the cost-cutting example, as potable water has been a paid service in Brazil for several years. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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