BOGOTA, (Tierramérica).- The fique plant (Furcraea macrophilla), utilized in Colombia in making crafts and packaging material, contains a high concentration of two substances in high demand by the pharmaceutical industry, according to a university study.
Hecogenin and tigogenin, are used in hundreds of medications for treating dermatological, renal, brain and hormonal ailments, says the chemistry department at the National University and the Colombian Agricultural Research Corporation.
A pilot laboratory to extract these substances from the fique plant pulp will begin operations in November in El Tambo, a city on the Ecuador border.
The global deficit for hecogenin, with China being the leading supplier, reaches 5,000 tons a year.
Depending on its purity, one gram of this substance can cost six to 142 dollars, according to United Nations figures.
Environmentalists Want to Monitor Camisea
LIMA, (Tierramérica).- Ecologists have asked the Peruvian government to give them a place on the Environmental Control Commission that will monitor operations at the gas liquefaction plant being built in Paracas Bay, a nature reserve on the Pacific coast.
The location of the plant for processing and exporting natural gas arriving via pipeline from the Amazon region of Camisea set off an international protest campaign that nearly convinced the Inter-American Development Bank to halt a 135-million-dollar loan for the project.
But the Bank approved the credit last month, with the condition that the Environmental Control Commission -- with government and business sector representatives -- would supervise operations in Paracas Bay.
Award-winning activist María Elena Foronda demanded the participation of environmental groups to ensure the independence and effectiveness of the ecological oversight duties.
Officials Join Wetlands Campaign
BUENOS AIRES, (Tierramérica).- Local and national authorities in Argentina signed a commitment in late September to advance a petition for the country's wetlands corridor to be declared a Ramsar site, granting it international protections.
Ecologists have been demanding that the corridor, which extends along the Paraná River, be included on the list of more than 1,000 sites of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, signed in 1971 in the Iranian city of that name.
More than 700 participants from 16 countries gathered last month in the northeastern Argentine city of Paraná, in Entre Ríos province, to exchange experiences and information on management of these ecosystems.
The wetlands complex formed by the Paraná and Paraguayan rivers covers an area in Argentina of three million hectares, although the corridor for which protection is sought is around one million hectares along the Paraná, which runs through seven provinces
Tilapia Threatens Other Fish
MANAGUA, (Tierramérica).- The Nicaraguan government's environmental attorney general warned of the risks of a tilapia fish farm project, saying it would aggravate ecological problems caused by the presence of this exotic fish in the country's waters.
Attorney Lisandro De León told Tierramérica that his office "will solicit immediate suspension" of the fish farming permit in the southwestern Cocibolca Lake -- also known as Lake Nicaragua -- if there is any sign of non-compliance by the project's investors.
The project involves eight underwater cages of young fish that receive hormones in their food, says De León, and therefore threatens native fish species like the 'mojarra'.
Tilapia fish farming began in the 1980s in Las Canoas River, but with the flooding caused by Hurricanes Joan (1988) and Mitch (1998), the species spread to Cocibolca and other water sources.
Cities Take Environmental Priority
SAN JOSE, (Tierramérica).- The deterioration of the urban environment in Costa Rica will be one of the central themes of the National Environmental Management System, which is setting an agenda for the priority ecological issues for the coming decade
The plan -- financed by the Central American Economic Integration Bank at a cost of two million dollars -- will focus on declining quality of life in the cities caused by water and air contamination, solid waste and erosion.
"The main environmental problems are not in rural areas, but in the cities. This strategy will give us the capacity to negotiate a visions of sustainable development among all institutions," Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, minister of environment and energy, told Tierramérica.
The National Environment Council is in charge of drafting the agenda, with input from the ministries of environment and energy, planning and economic policy, agriculture and livestock, health, science and technology, and public education.
Organic Farming Lessons
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The private University of Valle, in Guatemala, is teaching one hundred peasant farmers, most of whom are illiterate, techniques in organic farming and integrated pest management.
The "University for Everyone" workshop took place in late September in the western department of Sololá as a "practical project to help farm workers improve productivity in the short term," the program's assistant director María Marta Ramos told Tierramérica.
"The unit on pest management teaches how to counteract insects with other insects or plants. The idea is to develop organic farming in order to improve productivity without the use of pesticides and other environmental contaminants," Ramos said.
The farmers also received training in growing orchids and bromelias as options for alternative crops. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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