SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- Chile's governmental National Environment Commission (CONAMA) made a pledge Sep. 23 to the Asbestos Victims Association to begin a new phase of joint efforts to finalize solutions for families that have been exposed to this carcinogen in the capital's Maipú district.
Chile has banned asbestos, a toxic substance that was widely used in construction.
The association is pleased with the replacement of contaminated materials in 47 housing units of the Villa Pizarreño complex and a school in Maipú, with resources provided by CONAMA.
But the group says that asbestos must still be removed in two more neighborhoods of Maipú, the most populous district of Santiago, with 470,000 inhabitants.
Squatters Take Over Protected Sites
CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- Homeless families have invaded 306 vacant lots, houses and buildings so far this year in Caracas, says the capital's city council vice-president Wilfredo Rodríguez.
These takeovers have reached protected "green areas", like the National El Avila Park, which separates Caracas from the Caribbean Sea, the Caricuao Zoo, the forest that surrounds the horse racing track, and the Botanical Garden.
Groups of as many as 80 families set up their precarious houses in a matter of hours. These one-room shacks are often made of cardboard, zinc panels, and plastic sheeting. When municipal authorities do take action, they usually negotiate with the squatters to convince them to move elsewhere.
Alternative Energy for Remote Town
HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- The 400 residents of El Mamey, a village in a remote mountainous region in central Cuba, saw their living conditions improve with the implementation of hydroelectric energy.
To solve the problem of the lack of potable water, researchers replaced an old 15-kilowatt electric pump, which constantly broke down, with a hydraulic ram that uses energy from a waterfall.
This mechanical device, invented in 1796, functions with the force of the water and gravity, is automatic and requires minimum maintenance.
Water supplies are thus ensured for more than 100 homes, scattered throughout the area
Fruit Trees Planted in Poor Areas
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The Guatemalan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources delivered thousands of fruit and forest trees to 12 impoverished communities affected by drought in the eastern department of Chiquimula.
"The project forms part of the anti-desertification program, through reforestation, and providing self-sufficiency in food supplies," ministry spokesman Sergio del Aguila told Tierramérica.
Officials provided 1,667 avocado and 1,500 citrus trees as well as 13,000 'madre cacao', 4,000 'matilisguate', 6,000 cedar and 6,000 'aripín' trees.
The program's goal is to contribute to increasing forest coverage in the area, thus preventing soil erosion and benefiting water filtration, capturing carbon dioxide and improving the environment in general, said Del Aguila.
MANAGUA, (Tierramérica).- Nicaraguan authorities are drafting rules to regulate the installation of antennae for cellular telephone transmission and put an end to the disorder that has environmentalists complaining.
Parliament is studying an initiative of the Health Ministry and the Managua city government, Managua's assistant environment director Danilo Pérez told Tierramérica.
According to the proposal, the minimum distance between the 47 antennae in Managua and city residences is 17 meters, he said.
Although it is not proven that there are health risks associated with the microwaves near the antennae, there are also complaints of "visual contamination", that the antennae are eyesores, says Pérez
Satellite Reveals Deforestation
SAN JOSE, (Tierramérica).- Global positioning satellite technology is being used by Costa Rica's Ministry of Environment and Energy since July to detect cases of forest mismanagement.
Costing 14,000 dollars, the 22-computer system provides detailed information about the country's forest coverage as it existed in 2000, and permits scientists to identify sites where illegal logging is occurring.
"For the first time we have a precise and reliable instrument based on objective measurements and maps, allowing us to determine the legality of forestry permits issued," Agustín Fallas, of the development foundation for Costa Rica's central volcanic range, told Tierramérica.
Genetics Reinforce Sugar Industry
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- The finalization of the sugarcane genetic map by Brazilian researchers this month will help Brazil maintain leadership in sugar production and export, say experts in the sector.
Within five years plant scientists will develop varieties of sugarcane that are more productive, more resistant to cold, pests and disease, and also better at assimilating nutrients like phosphorous, says William Lee Burnquist, technology coordinator at Copersucar, a cooperative that is responsible for 20 percent of Brazil's sugar and alcohol production.
The sugarcane genome project, with 240 scientists participating, announced on Sep. 17 that 33,620 genes had been identified, of which 2,000 are related to sugar production.
Brazil produces some 23 million tons of sugar annually. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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