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Eco-Briefs

 BRAZIL 
 
 São Paulo Solar Plant Will Supply Electricity to Public Grid


RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 26 (Tierramérica).- The University of São Paulo will construct a photovoltaic power plant, in association with a local electric company, which will be the third solar power plant and the second to supply electricity to the public grid in Brazil.

The plant will be powered by 2,500 solar panels to be installed in the city and will have a generating capacity of 500 kilowatts. The total cost of the project is estimated at 6.4 million dollars, and it will be overseen by the Ministry of Energy of the state of São Paulo.

This is one of 18 projects approved in 2011 by the National Electric Power Agency to lower the cost of solar power generation to one third of the current cost of almost 145 dollars per megawatt/hour.

“When the power generation source is connected to the distribution grid, data will be gathered that will help to evaluate its performance,” Rafael Herrero Alonso, an engineer at the Integrated Systems Laboratory and one of the project directors, told Tierramérica.


 HONDURAS 
 
 Women Farmers Producing Better Grains


TEGUCIGALPA, Nov 26 (Tierramérica).- Women farmers in seven departments of Honduras are working towards higher-quality, environmentally friendly agricultural production to gain better access to markets and fairer prices.

They are participating in an initiative promoted by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Inter- American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), aimed at strengthening food security and environmental protection in the department of Olancho, in northeast Honduras, El Paraíso, in the south, Comayagua, in the center of the country, Yoro, in the north, and Lempira, Intibucá and Ocotepeque, in the west.

The main beneficiaries are women heads of household who are now producing better quality grains that they are able to sell at fair prices on the national market, Miguel Barreto, WFP representative in Honduras, told Tierramérica. The goal is to break into the regional market and to replicate the model in other IICA initiatives, he added.


 CUBA 
 
 Nuclear Technology for More Resistant Crops


HAVANA, Nov 26 (Tierramérica).- Agricultural researchers in Cuba are using radiation in an attempt to develop banana, rice, avocado and tomato strains that are more resistant to drought and salinity, as part of a Latin American cooperation project.

“Many areas of the country have saline soils as a result of seawater penetration, drought and the widespread use of chemical fertilizers, among other causes. There is a growing demand for crops that will grow in difficult conditions like these,” researcher Orlando Coto of the governmental Institute for Tropical Fruit Production Research told Tierramérica.

The initiative, which will be expanded in 2013, will maintain the current studies, which use induced mutation techniques, and incorporate work on citrus fruit crops, he explained. “We are currently irradiating avocado tree seeds and leaf buds, but more time is needed in the case of fruit trees,” he added.

The Cuban research is part of a wider project being carried out under the Regional Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the participation of 10 countries.


 CHILE 
 
 Cracks in Ralco Hydro Dam Raise Concern


SANTIAGO, Nov 26 (Tierramérica).- The Aukin Wallmapu indigenous community in Alto Bíobío, 500 kilometers south of Santiago, has denounced the presence of cracks and leaks in the Ralco hydroelectric dam.

Both the company and the government have denied any potential hazards, and claimed that the situation at the hydro plant is “absolutely and totally normal.”

But the denunciations have been backed by environmental activist Patricio Segura, who filmed the cracks and published the footage.

Segura told Tierramérica, “It is deplorable that the community itself has to practically conduct espionage work to get the authorities to react, and that a major company like this does not continuously supply information.” The cracks appeared after the earthquake of Feb. 27, 2010.


 VENEZUELA 
 
 Scientists Call for Preservation of Forest Remnant


CARACAS, Nov 26 (Tierramérica).- Researchers at Venezuela’s University of the Andes are urging the government to adopt a management plan for the 7,000 hectares of the Caparo Experimental Station, the remnant of what was a forest covering millions of hectares in the country’s western lowlands less than a century ago.

“We are calling for this remnant to be declared a National Park, and for a management plan to be established for the forest reserve in which it is located – decreed in 1961 with 175,000 hectares, but decimated by logging companies until the year 2000,” the researcher in charge of the station, Wilfredo Franco, told Tierramérica.

The forest’s deterioration is also due to “the roughly 10,000 people who have occupied it to carry out agricultural and livestock raising activities,” he added.

There are still 16 forest communities remaining in the station, with 191 tree species, 61 species of mammals, 248 of birds, 30 of amphibians, seven of snakes, numerous species of fish and insects, and a still undetermined diversity of microbes. This is what remains of what was once seven million hectares of forests in southwestern Venezuela and a roughly equal area in eastern Colombia.


*Source: Inter Press Service.
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