SAO PAULO, (Tierramérica).- Brazil is getting ready to defend its ban on imports of used tires from the European Union before an arbitration committee of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 20 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The legal consultant from the Environment Ministry, Gustavo Trindade, and the environmental quality coordinator for the Brazilian Environmental Institute, Márcio Freitas, will present ecological and health arguments during the panel in an attempt to have the used tire import ban upheld.
The EU filed a complaint with the WTO charging that Brazil's policy violates international laws and hurts European exports. Each year, the EU countries throw out 80 million used tires, and beginning in 2006 the bloc will ban dumping them in landfills. That opens the door for massive exports to developing countries.
"A favorable decision for Brazil at the WTO meeting will set an important precedent that could benefit developing countries. This is the first major environmental dispute in the WTO," Claudio Langone, executive secretary of Brazil's Environment Ministry, told Tierramérica.
Solar Energy for Rural Families
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- More than 3,000 families isolated in rural villages of Chile's Fourth Region, some 500 km north of the capital, will soon be supplied by energy from photovoltaic systems, in a project financed in part by the Inter-American Development Bank, with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The solar energy equipment will be installed in homes and community centers in 15 rural villages that today are illuminated by candles and where kerosene stoves and lamps are used.
The new energy option comes about because the solar radiation conditions in the Fourth Region are among the best in the world, and finding a substitute for candles, kerosene and other fossil fuels "will benefit the environment by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases," UNDP spokeswoman in Chile, María Elena Hurtado, told Tierramérica.
Documentary on Vast Wetlands
CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- The documentary "Tierras de agua dulce" (Lands of Freshwater), about the vast Venezuelan wetlands of the plains along the Orinoco River, premiered July 9 "to show the potential we have and must take care of, as one of the 12 countries with greatest reserves of freshwater," the film's directory, Ana Cristina Henríquez, told Tierramérica.
The flatlands with the major rivers, and their nearly extinct independent forests and threatened by livestock and farming, "could contain underground twice the amount of water we see in the rivers and marshes on the surface," said expert Pedro Figueroa.
The abundance of water over the plains "does not allow us to see the danger of water scarcity as deforestation advances throughout Venezuela, by hundreds of thousands of hectares a year," warned agronomist Miguel Ortega.
Mercury Threatens Amazonian Population
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- An environmental disaster is developing in the Tapajós River basin, in the eastern Brazilian Amazon, due to the mercury used by 'garimpeiros' (informal miners) to extract gold from the ore.
"We found fish with 40 times the level of mercury allowed by the World Health Organization," Zuleica Castillos, environmental risk expert from the Mining Technology Center (CETEM), told Tierramérica. People and plants also presented high levels of contamination, according to a recent study in two communities of the Tapajós mining reserve, which extends across 23,000 square km.
Mercury ingestion through fish consumption results in irreversible symptoms in the babies of contaminated mothers, said Castillos.
CETEM will provide training for the garimpeiros on the risks of mercury and how to prevent them, as part of the Global Mercury Project, promoted in several countries by the United Nations.
Soap from an Oil Nut
GUANTANAMO, Cuba, (Tierramérica).- Farming families in El Oro community, located in the semi-arid region of this eastern Cuban province, have been successful in making soap from the extracted from the Jatropha curcas tree (known locally as 'piñón botija'), a plant that also helps prevent erosion.
The plantation of the Jatropha curcas covers some 2.5 hectares, and for now the soap is produced by hand from the Jatropha nut, or physic nut, in a small laboratory. Every 100 kg of crushed nuts produces an estimated 38 liters of oil.
"The machine is still in its test phase, but with that quantity of oil we can make around 50 bars of soap," Migdalia León, manager of the ecological station at San Antonio del Sur, told Tierramérica. This coastal area of Guantánamo province has been hit hard by drought and salinization. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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