BOGOTA, (Tierramérica).- Hundreds of whales began arriving in the warm waters along Colombia's Pacific coast in late July to mate and to give birth, a spectacle that attracts crowds of tourists every year.
The giant sea mammals migrate to Colombian waters during the Southern Hemisphere winter, escaping the frigid waters of the south, remaining here until early October, when the begin their return trip, according to the Ministry of Environment.
Tourists and scientists track the whales' behavior, as they surface for air and breach, and even "sing", whale songs that can last as long as 20 minutes.
Battle Over 'Andean Viagra'
LIMA, (Tierramérica).- The company Pure World Botanicals, which registered in the United States a patent for extract of 'maca', a Peruvian medicinal plant, has engaged in "biopiracy", say authorities in the South American country.
The maca root is used by the local indigenous groups as an energy booster and to fight sexual impotence.
Now dubbed "Andean Viagra", after the commercially popular impotence-fighting drug, exports began in recent years -- in the natural and extract forms -- to Japan, Europe and the United States.
Pure World Botanicals began production of maca extract and registered it as an invention of its researchers. The firm is now demanding payment of royalties by Peruvians who export the product to the United States.
Benjamín Marticorena, president of the National Science and Technology Council, is pressing the Peruvian government and Congress to pass legislation to protect the communal property rights over medicinal plants that are part of indigenous ancestral knowledge.
Thousands Homeless Months After Flood
BUENOS AIRES, (Tierramérica).- At least 85,000 people were affected by the late April floods in the northeastern Argentine province of Santa Fe, and some 12,000 lost their homes, according to the provincial government's reports.
The figures come from the Institute of Statistics and Censuses three months after the disaster caused by the flooding of the Salado River, sweeping through a third of the provincial capital that is home to some 400,000 people.
Official reports record 24 deaths, and non-governmental groups say some 30 people disappeared.
Thousands of evacuees continue to live in "uninhabitable conditions" of overcrowding in areas lacking sanitation, reported the organization Medicos del Mundo (Doctors of the World) this month.
Dams Rejected in Seismic Area
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- Residents of 37 villages in the eastern Guatemalan municipality of Rio Hondo are protesting the construction of two hydroelectric dams in the area, the center of two seismic faults.
In 1976, an earthquake along the Motagua fault registered 7.9 on the Richter scale and killed more than 25,000 people, and the Polochic fault runs through the Minas Mountains, points out Rio Hondo Mayor Felipe Méndez.
The Electroriente Company aims to build a dam 140 meters across and 35 meters high on the Colorado River. A second dam, 70 meters long, would be built on the Jones River.
The environmental impact studies for the projects were conducted prior to Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which changed the course of the Hondo River, and affected the Colorado, says Méndez.
Furthermore, the two dams would leave 20,000 Guatemalans without a water source, Mauricio Vásquez, activist with the non-governmental group Organized Civil Society, told Tierramérica.
Internet for Rural Development
TEGUCIGALPA, (Tierramérica).- Farmers -- with small and medium-sized holdings -- in five areas of Honduras will soon have access to Internet centers aimed at promoting rural development.
Over the next three years, 25 such information centers will be set up to improve the economic and social situation of the Honduran countryside, where poverty rates are as high as 75 percent, according to official figures.
The telecoms centers will be part of a national network that will give farmers access to international markets, as part of a project financed by the Canadian government, says Agriculture Minister Mariano Jiménez.
The initiative "is received with appreciation because the Internet is revolutionizing everything, and these farmers have been lagging behind," Marvin Ponce, of the Coordinating Council of Peasant Farmer Organizations, told Tierramérica.
Rural March Hurts Eco-Tourism
MANAGUA, (Tierramérica).- Thousands of impoverished farming families in Nicaragua staged a march from the coffee-growing region of Matagalpa to the capital, creating an "image of instability" that endangers the investments in eco-tourism centered on the "coffee road", complains the Institute of Tourism.
The march undermined the government's efforts to promote the "coffee road" tour, one of the leading eco-tourism attractions, institute spokeswoman Sandra Chavarría told Tierramérica.
Coffee plantations and ranches in the northern departments of Matagalpa, Estelí and Nueva Segovia offer lodging and excursions for tourists interested in the rural environment, as well as horseback riding and hiking.
But the protest, in which families demand that the Enrique Bolaños government resolve the problems of unemployment and food shortages, scared off investment in a sector that grew 7.5 percent in the first half of this year, says Chavarría. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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