HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- Cuba is expecting a dozen tropical storms to pass the island this year, six of which could turn into hurricanes and cause costly damage. To prevent disaster and reduce the risk to human life, the authorities conducted the exercise dubbed Meteoro 2003.
Five million people of the island's population of 11.2 million took part in the disaster drill two weeks before the hurricane season begins, in June.
Residents pruned trees that were close to power lines and cleaned up sewers, rivers, canals and ditches to facilitate water flow in case of a major storm. They also practiced emergency measures to react to floods, toxic chemical leaks, dam breaks or building collapse, as well as first-aid and evacuations.
Disappointment in EPA Chief's Resignation
WASHINGTON DC, (Tierramérica).- With the resignation of Christine Whitman from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "the environment has lost a friend," Jonathan Lash, president of the non-governmental World Resources Institute, commented in an interview with Tierramérica.
"She tried to do the best under adverse circumstances," Lash added.
In her resignation letter, May 21, Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, wrote, "Our work has been guided by the strong belief that environmental protection and economic prosperity can and must go hand in hand."
In her two and a half years in the post, Whitman sought to increase the standards for environmental controls. According to the environmentalist Sierra Club, climate change, limits on contaminating emissions by power generating plans and the levels of arsenic in potable water were some of the challenges that underscored Whitman's differences with the policies of the White House.
120 Caymans Released
, (Tierramérica).- - Last week, 120 young Orinoco caymans (Crocodylus intermedius) were released in the plains of Venezuela's Aguaro-Guariquito national park, 300 km south of Caracas.
Since 1990, 2,500 caymans -- endangered due to uncontrolled hunting -- have been raised and released under a program co-sponsored by the government, public universities and private companies.
Three livestock farms in the low-lying plains of central Venezuela, serve as cayman nurseries, raising the reptiles from hatchlings until they are a year old, and measure 80 cm -- and able to defend themselves from predators.
Presidents Alvaro Uribe, of Colombia, and Hugo Chávez, of Venezuela, agreed to establish a binational commission to protect this crocodile species and the Arrau sea turtle (Podocnemis expansa), also native to the Orinoco River.
At Recycling's Cutting Edge
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- Ecologists applaud the municipality of Ñuñoa, one of the 33 communities of the Santiago metropolitan area, for launching an unprecedented waste-recycling program.
Ñuñoa this month began distributing bags to all households in which residents separate their paper, glass, plastic, cardboard, aluminum and other metal waste.
The bags are picked up and taken to a recycling center built by the municipality.
The benefits of the program include savings in paying for deposits of solid waste and revenues from the recycled product, as well as the creation of jobs, says Luis Mariano Rendón, coordinator of Chile's 'Acción Ecológica' movement.
Cement Company Promises to Stop Polluting
MANAGUA, (Tierramérica).- The Mexican transnational Cemex recognized that its cement plant in Nicaragua was contaminating the surrounding area, and promised that in 2004 it will complete work on its 1.2 million dollar toxic substance emissions control program.
The company is aware of the complaints of the residents of San Rafael del Sur, where the factory is located, 45 km from Managua, largely about the dust coming from its chimneys, Cemex spokesman Gerardo de la Torre told Tierramérica.
The problem dates back to the origins of the 60-year-old factory, which Cemex leased from the Nicaraguan government, De la Torre said.
The main investments of the clean-up program will go towards modern filters to prevent particle emissions, he said.
Pageant Under Shadow of SARS
, PANAMA CITY (Tierramérica).- Panamanian authorities have set up a strict security apparatus to prevent SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) from entering the country with the numerous foreign visitors who will be arriving for the Miss Universe contest Jun. 3.
Contestants and their assistants and families coming from Asia, where the SARS outbreak is centered, may only enter Panama if they have a certificate guaranteeing that they are free of the disease, Itza Barahona, epidemiology chief at the Health Ministry, told Tierramérica.
"The measure will allow us to detect individuals at risk. Furthermore, the delegations from some Asian countries will be housed at specific sites," Barahona said.
More than 70 national pageant winners will turn Panama into a tourist destination next week. Participants and their assistants have promised to advise the Panamanian authorities of any SARS-like symptoms, which include high fever and respiratory problems. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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