BOGOTA, (Tierramérica).- The Colombian government is planning to move three coal shipping ports on the northern coast as part of an environmental plan after two ships collided, causing a fuel spill and the temporary closing of nearby beaches.
The Aug. 3 collision caused a spill of 45,000 gallons of fuel near Santa Marta Bay, a Caribbean tourism destination, but also a port for shipping coal.
The Colombian authorities had to mediate between the tourism businesses affected by the contamination and the coal exporters, including the transnational Drummond.
IFAW Seeks Iceland Sanction
YARMOUTH PORT, United States, (Tierramérica).- The International fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has called for economic sanctions against Iceland, which last week began hunting whales after a 14-year moratorium.
If Iceland does not halt the hunt, economic sanctions could be imposed that would hurt its fishing, tourism and even airline industries, Christopher Tuite, director of the habitat and wildlife program at the U.S.-based IFAW, told Tierramérica.
It would be a painful measure, he acknowledged, because it would affect Iceland's whale-watching industry, an area that IFAW itself has been an active contributor.
Despite the global outcry, Icelandic ships captured two minke whales, of the 38 they plan to hunt, ostensibly for scientific research purposes.
The United States has threatened to impose sanctions if Iceland persists in whale hunting. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stressed that hunting whales is not necessary for scientific research because information can be obtained without killing the giant mammals.
The International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium in 1986 on the commercial hunting of whales.
Petrochemicals Leave Lead Contamination
BUENOS AIRES, (Tierramérica).- Fifty percent of the children who live near a petrochemical center in Argentina's Buenos Aires province have high levels of lead in their blood, according to a study by the private consultancy JMB environmental engineering, conducted at the behest of municipal authorities.
Of the 114 children, ages seven to 11, who were tested, 57 had more than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the maximum concentration permitted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Villa Inflamable, home to 4,000 people, 15 hydrocarbon gases were detected in the air, including carcinogens benzene and toluene 888, in concentrations eight times higher than other neighborhoods. Arsenic and chromium were found in the soils.
The authorities are demanding an investigation to determine which companies are contaminating the area. Oil companies Shell and YPF say that they have not used lead in their fuels since the mid-1990s.
Lawmaker Accused of Setting Forest Fire
TEGUCIGALPA, (Tierramérica).- The Honduran environmental prosecutor's office will charge lawmaker Mauro Caballero, of the opposition Liberal Party, of setting fire to eight hectares of forest, habitat of several endangered animals, including turtle and snake species, government attorney Juan Francisco González said.
The legislative deputy from the western department of Santa Barbara is believed to have committed the crime two months ago in Villanueva, a farming and ranching region.
González told Tierramérica that the government will press Congress to remove Caballero's parliamentary immunity so that the case can be brought to trial, "because the crime has already been proven."
The accusation against Caballero, who denied all charges, would be the first environmental trial against a lawmaker in the eight years that the environmental prosecutor's office has been operating.
: Farm Irrigation Plan Promoted
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- Guatemala will invest 17.2 million dollars in irrigation programs in order to boost farm production in areas afflicted by prolonged drought, Carlos Set, minister of agriculture and livestock, told Tierramérica.
Irrigation systems are used in less than 20 percent of the cultivable land in this country, where nearly 70 percent of the 11.2 million inhabitants make their livelihood in farming.
"The largest portion of the population affected is indigenous, who to a great extent rely on what they grow themselves," said Set.
The irrigation systems will officially be promoted during the third Irrigation and Water Fair to take place in the Guatemalan capital Sep. 17-21, said the minister.
SAN SALVADOR, (Tierramérica).- With the assistance of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Salvadoran authorities will investigate the cause of the high mortality rate associated with pneumonia in this country, where 326 people have died of the illness so far this year.
Mario Serpas, epidemiology monitoring chief at the Health Ministry, said the studies will be conducted and ready in two months, and it will be determined if the pneumonia victims received appropriate medical treatment.
So far this year 65,700 Salvadorans have contracted pneumonia, although the peak number of cases occurred in the last week of July, with 6,453. The figures for mid-August showed a 40-percent decline in reported cases.
Almost 85 percent of the cases reported involve children under age five, concentrated mostly in the northern departments of Santa Ana, Morazán and La Libertad, said Serpa. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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