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 Historic Ruling Defends Wetland

BUENOS AIRES, Mar 10 (Tierramérica).- A 20-kilometer embankment constructed by an agri-business firm in the Esteros del Iberá wetlands, in the eastern Argentine province of Corrientes, must be demolished, says a court order.

In an unprecedented decision, the Corrientes Superior Court of Justice upheld the ruling of two lower courts in a case filed in 2005 by a resident when the embankment was just 1.5 km long.

"It is an historic ruling. It was a completely illegal project because it was inside the reserve," Jorge Cappato, an activist with the environmental group Fundación Proteger, told Tierramérica.

Along with the recently enacted Forestry Law, this decision is "one of the two best news items in recent years for Argentina in the area of sustainable development," he added.

Esteros del Iberá is a freshwater wetland extending over 1.4 million hectares and holds a vast array of plant and animal species, including many that are endangered.

 Banks Join Defense of Amazon

RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 10 (Tierramérica).- Banks, whether public or private, will have to apply environmental criteria as of July 1 in granting loans for rural activities in the Brazilian Amazon.

Agrarian and environmental certifications and adaptation to ecological-economic requirements will be required of small and large farmers, according to a Feb. 28 decision of the National Monetary Council, made up of the ministers of Brazil's financial portfolios.

"The great advance is the inclusion of private banks" in the fight against deforestation, because the state institutions were already imposing rules, Paulo Barreto, researcher with the Institute of Man and the Environment of the Amazon, told Tierramérica.

The new requirements will help reduce deforestation, which saw a new increase in the second half of 2007, though not that practiced by invaders of public lands that self-finance their completely illegal activities, he added.

 Protests Against Forest Exploitation

TEGUCIGALPA, Mar 10 (Tierramérica).- More than 400 residents of three villages in El Porvenir municipality, located in the central Honduran department of Francisco Morazán, have protested forest exploitation on Pacaya Hill, which is the source of their water supply.

It is not the first time that El Porvenir has seen people rise up to defend the forest. "They have a history, first against mining, and now to protect the water. They have a high level of environmental awareness," Juan Almendares, leader of the environmental group Madre Tierra, told Tierramérica.

Beginning on Mar. 3, the residents have spoken out against the intention of two local families to carry out massive logging in the Pacaya forest, declared a protected area by the government, which restricts tree cutting and the use of the zone for agro-industrial activities.

 A Highway and Its Discontents

MEXICO CITY, Mar 10 (Tierramérica).- A project to build 62 kilometers of highway in an area neighboring the Mexican capital where there is a major forest has created tension between the government, environmentalists and residents.

If the government approves the construction of the Lerma-Tres Marías highway, as planned, "all of our colleagues will fight the war until the project is stopped," Gabriel Hernández, resident of Huitzilac, a town of some 20,000 people near the planned route, told Tierramérica.

The residents opposed, with the support of environmental groups like Greenpeace, say the highway would threaten the Gran Bosque de Agua, the forest shared by the central states of Morelos, Mexico and the national capital.

It is an area covering 120,000 hectares and is an important watershed as well as home to great biodiversity.

*Source: Inter Press Service.
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