MEXICO CITY, (Tierramérica).- The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation is irrelevant, said a Mexican non-governmental organization as a public process began last week to evaluate the 10 years the treaty signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States has been in force.
The agreement "only represents a series of good intentions," because its mandate is subordinate to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in effect since 1994, Héctor de la Cueva, spokesman for the Action Network on Free Trade, told Tierramérica.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the executive arm of the treaty, convened the public evaluation, and announced that another, by a committee of experts, would be ready by the second quarter of 2004.
The agreement, the only one of its type in the world, aims to monitor compliance with environmental norms, but lacks binding authority.
Autonomy Sought for Amazon Institute
LIMA, (Tierramérica).- Indigenous and environmental groups, universities and officials in the eastern Peruvian region of Selva are asking Congress to restore the autonomy of the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute (IIAP), which in July was made into an agency of the Ministry of Production.
The IIAP was created in 1981 to promote research geared towards self-sustained development, conservation of natural resources and improvement of living standards of the people in the Amazon region, and is an international reference point for scientific knowledge of the area rain forests.
According to IIAP president Dennis del Castillo, the problem is "the central government's interest in managing the resources that are provided by international aid" to the institute's five regional centers in Selva.
"In becoming part of the state bureaucracy, the IIAP will lose technical-scientific credibility and will turn into an agency of political jobs," he says.
Vast Marine Biodiversity Discovered
SAN JOSE, (Tierramérica).- An inventory of mollusk species in the reef of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, on the Costa Rican Caribbean coast, has allowed the site to be declared unique in the world for its great biological diversity.
In the five square km covered by the reef, off the eastern province of Limón, 600 mollusk species have been catalogued in the past five years. Ten percent of them were previously unknown. The number of different species is expected to reach 800 to 1,000.
"This year alone we found five new species for science," said José Espinoza, researcher with the Oceanography Institute of Havana, which is conducting the inventory with Spain's University of Oviedo and the Costa Rican National Biodiversity Institute and the Ministry of Environment and Energy.
Among the new species found are the Pronum holandae, an orange-shelled snail, named in honor of the Netherlands for its support for the project, and the Polycera manzanilloensis, a sea slug, named for the community of Mazanillo.
100,000 Students in Clean-up Project
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has launched a pilot program, "Cleaning up my village, my town, my city", involving 100,000 students in 10 of Guatemala's 22 departments.
The three-week project, lasting through the end of the month and with the participation of 500 primary and secondary schools, "aims to reduce air, water and ground pollution arising from poor management of solid waste," ministry spokesman Sergio del Aguila told Tierramérica.
"In Guatemala there is practically no garbage treatment, and just four percent of waste water is treated," said Del Aguila.
There will be prizes for the three villages, three towns and three cities that show most improvement.
Indians to Fight Deforestation
TEGUCIGALPA, (Tierramérica).- Indigenous communities in western Honduras will take part in an initiative to conserve natural resources, halt deforestation and reduce poverty.
Cabañas, Copán Ruinas, El Paraíso, Nueva Arcadia, San Antonio and Santa Rita, are some of the communities in the department of Copán, in the next two months will have the technical and financial resources needed to do so -- donated by Finland, worth 5.4 million dollars.
The funds will be administered by the municipalities and will go towards management and protection of the valleys throughout the department that are being deforested for commercial, industrial and household purposes, Santa Rita Mayor Nery Castillo said.
The project, overseen by the United Nations Development Program, is to benefit directly some 163,000 people in Copán, cradle of the Maya civilization.
MANAGUA, (Tierramérica).- The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) is supporting a campaign in Nicaragua's cities and rural areas to eliminate the use of industrial pesticides in the production of maize, vegetables and other crops.
With the help of PAHO, universities from Managua and León this year trained 50 young people in clinical and environmental toxicology to help seek alternatives to harmful pesticides.
In the countryside, the program is distributing pamphlets "that are a sort of primer for small farmers, so that we are all speaking the same language," Anselmo Aburto, an official with PAHO's Plagsalud initiative, told Tierramérica.
Nicaragua is leading the way in reassessing pesticides in Central America, and has determined the six most toxic in a list of 12. Nevertheless, none have been banned. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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