Natural resources / Recursos naturais

Environmental and indigenous groups have protested the Xingu River project, which the government says is needed to bring power to the booming country. One villager is waiting as long as he can to leave.

Valcione da Silva makes a living catching tiny, delicate fish in Brazil’s Xingu River. A dam project is forcing him and many others from their homes and livelihoods. (Matthew Teague / Los Angeles Times / December 29, 2012)

SANTO ANTONIO, Brazil — The wind blows in from the river, mingling with the scent of the day’s last meal in the kitchen. The smells of work and home for Valcione da Silva. He sits on a worn bench and watches children play on the floor, laughing. Somewhere outside, a siren begins, long and loud.

Da Silva reaches beneath his bench to retrieve two knives, double-edged like daggers. They’re not weapons, he says, clattering them together. They’re special fishing tools. “Only wood,” he says. He ignores the siren.

He pulls out what appears to be a string of plastic Coke bottles dangling from a belt. “Look,” he says, pressing into the side of a bottle. It flexes open along a slit in the plastic. When he lets go, it springs closed again. “Very simple. I can keep them alive in here.” His fish are delicate, he says.

A moment later a thunderous WHOOMP shakes the little home, and a concussion rolls the air like a wave on the river. Dirt dances on the floor. The nearly bare shelves rattle. Another WHOOMP, and outside in the yard, the leaves of Da Silva’s mango tree flicker green and silver.

Da Silva walks to his doorway with his wooden daggers, and looks like a man standing at the edge of the world.

Over the last year the villagers around him have packed up and left. A few days ago the school closed, because all but Da Silva’s children had left. His wife was the teacher, so she continues their lessons at home. Santo Antonio would look like a ghost town, except that bulldozers have leveled all the empty homes.

Da Silva watches the trucks as they rumble past, carrying countless tons of earth, blown with dynamite from the hillsides where he was born.

“I want to stay and fish,” the 36-year-old says. But it’s early December, and he’ll have to leave soon; clever men with clipboards have outmaneuvered him.

In the morning, he says, he will do the only thing within his power. He’ll break the law.


Progress and the past are colliding at Da Silva’s doorway.

His small home sits at the foot of the Belo Monte dam site, where a consortium is building the third-largest dam in the world, almost four miles across the Xingu River, a $16-billion construction project in the heart of the Amazon basin.

Indigenous peoples and environmental groups have cried out against the dam for reasons local and global; the people here depend on the mighty Xingu River — one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries — for transportation, and their livelihoods. Environmental groups say the dam will destroy rain forest that the world needs to breathe. The builders counter that millions of Brazilians need the electricity, and construction continues.

There had always been talk of a gigantic dam. During the dictatorships of the 1970s, important men made speeches about the riches of the Amazon, waiting to be discovered.

In 1972, President Emilio Medici showed up with a construction crew just outside Santo Antonio. The president cut down a Brazil nut tree — a symbol of the rain forest — and stood on its fresh stump to make a speech about bringing industry, roads and population to the Amazon. Part of the plan, starting in 1975, was to build a massive hydroelectric dam.

There’s a pattern, in Brazilian history, of industries focusing on one natural resource, stripping it, and moving on to another. When Portuguese colonials arrived, the Brazil nut tree was so plentiful that the explorers named the country after it. Now the trees are endangered. Later prospectors found so much gold that they named an entire state Minas Generais, or General Mines. The gold is dwindling too. The same happened with the rubber trees, and the diamonds.

The Amazon’s river system, though, seemed to resist progress for many years. The first bridge in the entire Amazon basin wasn’t built until 2010. The area was too difficult to reach. Too wild a riverbed. Populated by too wild a people.

The dictator’s workers symbolically paved the top of the stump where Medici stood to make his speech, and today it stands shrunken and cracked. Now an enormous concrete power pole looms over the stump. It’s one of an endless series of identical towers, marching electricity to the reawakened site of the dam called Belo Monte: the Beautiful Mountain.


Men came to Da Silva’s door a couple of years ago, and knocked.

We are subcontractors to Norte Energia, the head man told him. We are building the dam.

They entered his home with a clipboard, writing a list of all his meager possessions. He followed them from one small room to another, as questions tumbled through his mind: What on Earth is Norte Energia? And why do these men have a clipboard?

Life in Santo Antonio had stayed quiet for three decades, but elsewhere in Brazil a revolution had been underway, an industrial, financial and cultural revolution. The country had recently surpassed Britain to become the sixth-largest economy in the world. And the Brazilian machine needs electricity.

“Electricity is development,” said Joao Pimentel, director of institutional relations for Norte Energia, a consortium of private and state-held companies that plans to begin operating Belo Monte in 2015. “Without electricity we will go nowhere.”

“If all the electricity went to homes, the dam would provide power for 60 million people,” Pimentel said.

It won’t do that, exactly. Seventy percent of the dam’s power will flow to public utilities, sold on the national grid for business and domestic consumption. The other 30% will be divided among shareholders.

So how many Brazilian citizens will receive electricity once it trickles down? “It’s difficult to say,” Pimentel said.

“That’s a lie,” said professor Rodolfo Salm, who researches ecology at the federal university in Altamira, the largest town near the dam site. “This energy is not for homes, it is for mining.”

As Brazil expands its economic reach in the world, Salm said, it exports more goods. Aluminum, for instance.

“It takes a lot of energy to produce aluminum,” he said. “In Japan, they need aluminum but have an energy shortage. So what we are really doing is exporting energy.”

The ecological repercussions are more complex, he said. Hydropower is among the cleanest ways to make electricity, but in the Amazonian rain forest the consequences unfurl in ways that can’t be fully predicted. Belo Monte is only the beginning: The government is expected to grant concessions for at least 30 dams in coming years. The resultant flooding could cover thousands of square miles of rain forest, Salm said, releasing vast quantities of methane gas from rotted trees.

“The deforestation is already happening,” the professor said. People are moving to Altamira on the promise of an economic boom from the dam, and where the human population goes, trees disappear. “This year’s rains should have begun by now,” he said, pointing to a dusty window. “But they haven’t. It’s because we get our rains from the forest.”

The list of consequences grows.

“Look at the fish species,” the professor said. “As oxygen in the water lowers, they cannot survive. They die, and it breaks the ecology.”

The men with the clipboard, when they entered Valcione da Silva’s house two years ago, weren’t impressed with the possessions he valued most: his wooden daggers and Coke bottles. They would tally his worth back at their office, they said, and make him a settlement offer. They suggested he accept it.


Da Silva’s brother-in-law, Alessandro da Silva, joins him, and they sling their equipment in packs over their shoulders.

They climb onto Da Silva’s off-road motorcycle. He fires it up, and the two scoot into the rumble of transfer trucks. Dust coats the men, and the tires of the other vehicles tower above them.

Gigantic machines scrape and gouge and dynamite rock and dirt and load it into the trucks, which haul it to other sites, where they unload and repeat. Da Silva and Alessandro weave through a landscape that stopped resembling the rain forest long ago; now it looks lunar.

Off a side road they pass the village’s empty church, and the demolished houses of their former neighbors. As they get closer to the Xingu River the signs start appearing: Do not enter, they say. This land is now protected by the law. Do not enter.

They pass a water depot, where a machine pumps river water into trucks that will spray it along the roads to keep down the dust. The rain has not yet come.

More signs: Do not enter.

The two men drop on their motorbike over the riverbank, out of sight. Working quickly, they slide down the bank to their dugout canoe, crank its small motor and then navigate into the Xingu.

The Xingu is special among all rivers in the Amazon system. Where the Amazon descends just 260 feet over its length of almost 4,000 miles, the Xingu drops 295 feet over a 60-mile segment here.

And it is special for another reason, Da Silva says.

“Getting close now,” he says.

He putters past another sign, this one bobbing in the water: Do not enter.


The Belo Monte project itself was deemed illegal, briefly, by a Brazilian federal court. In mid-August, the court intervened to halt all construction.

Two weeks later, the Supreme Court reversed the decision. Civil rights and environmental groups cried out against the decision, claiming the court had bowed to pressure from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose election last year was underwritten in part by the companies interested in building the dam.

In September, the indigenous peoples who live in the dam-affected area rose up and overtook one of the dam’s largest construction sites. About 150 protesters, wielding clubs and spears, held the site for several days until Norte Energia’s representatives heard their concerns.

Another group, of indigenous fishermen, gathered in November. They converged on Norte Energia’s waterfront office in Altamira, demanding to know what sort of settlement the company would offer them once they’re no longer able to fish on the Xingu.

One of their leaders was Cecilio Kayapo, a man with skin like tree bark. Afterward, he shrugged. “They have told us nothing new,” he said. And then a common, defeated refrain among the fishermen: “They are clever.”

For a moment Kayapo stood and looked at an enormous, meticulous model of the Xingu under glass in Norte Energia’s office. He surveyed the water he had navigated his whole life, but from this vantage, none of it made sense.

The dam is a complex, multi-stage affair, but it will work like this: The Xingu flows downhill from Altamira to Santo Antonio — Valcione da Silva’s village — where the water will crank the dam’s turbines. Between those two points, though, the river swings through what locals call the Big Bend. It’s a wide loop where botanists, zoologists and anthropologists study life of all sorts; it’s also flat, so the river loses much of its valuable energy. So a support dam will shunt most of the Xingu directly from Altamira to the dam, through a man-made canal. It will cut out the Big Bend and slowly lower the river there.

Kayapo wanted to speak with the people of the Big Bend. He began a two-day journey in his small boat. The Arara tribe greeted him warmly, and the leader, Leoncio Arara, called a meeting in his hut. After Kayapo’s defeated report, the chief nodded. “They are clever,” he said.

He was 74 years old. He counted on his fingers the important moments of his life — all on the river — and finally threw up his hands. “The river is our road, and our food,” he said. “It is our life.”


Valcione da Silva steers his dugout boat around a final bend.

He will take the settlement, he says. He has no choice. Norte Energia alone cannot cast him from his home, but the government can. He will have to take the money — about $20,000, he says — and move from his home. But he will hold out as long as possible.

He stops the boat at the center of the river, and Alessandro throws out the anchor. At the center of the boat, Da Silva takes the cover off a funny old engine, which looks like something salvaged from a steam ship. It’s bright yellow, all gears and wheels and chains. It sputters to life.

“Air compressor,” Da Silva says. Two plastic tubes run from the engine, and the two men each place the free ends in their mouths. They pull on goggles, strap the Coke bottles around their waists, and tuck the wooden daggers into their belts.

They leap.

The bashing of the dump trucks fades, and the heat of the sun gives way to cool water. The dirt from the dam construction swirls around him, even underwater. Every day there are fewer fish to be found.

Da Silva dives deeper, and as he descends, darkness closes around him. He flicks on a waterproof flashlight.

Along the riverbed he finds the rocks he wants, stacked and smoothed by countless years of flowing water. He pulls the daggers from his waistband and reaches with them to the underside of the rocks, pulling the wooden edge along the stone.

Slowly he finds them — the beautiful fish. Ornate, tiny fish. Rare fish. At the market in Altamira he can sell them for $2 or $3, although they will sell for a hundred times that much eventually. He doesn’t know the scientific names, or the ones they’ll have by the time they reach aquariums in Tokyo or New York. But here they’re called the zebra, the old black man, the tiger.

They resist, hiding under the river rocks. But his daggers eventually, inevitably, sweep them from their homes.

Author: Matthew Teague
Source: Los Angeles Times



Feira Nacional da Agricultura Familiar e Reforma Agrária: evento comprova como as pessoas que vivem no mundo rural lutam para buscar um nicho no mercado. (Eduardo Aigner/MDA)

Rio de Janeiro – Comida, artesanato e moda ecológicas e sustentáveis são as principais estrelas da oitava Feira Nacional da Agricultura Familiar e Reforma Agrária, onde os visitantes podem ver, degustar e comprar produtos que respeitam o rico ecossistema do país.

Tudo o que é oferecido nos vários estandes da feira na Marina da Gloria, no Rio de Janeiro, compartilha a origem rural e o carinho de seus produtores, que apostam na matéria-prima da proximidade.

É o caso de Eli Chaves, que fabrica queijo parmesão em Minas Gerais e que contou à Agencia Efe que compra o leite dos produtores rurais do lugar onde vive.

O mesmo acontece com a cachaça Barra Velha, produzida a partir da destilação de cana-de-açúcar plantada e recolhida à mão nos campos do Rio de Janeiro, ao contrário de outros produtores que utilizam a nociva queima de canaviais para recolher mais fácil o produto.

A feira, que começou na quarta-feira e termina no domingo, não só serve para adquirir estes produtos, mas para comprovar como as pessoas que vivem no mundo rural lutam para buscar um nicho no mercado.

É o que ocorre no espaço dedicado às mulheres rurais, onde um grupo de brasileiras de todos os cantos do país mostra produtos de artesanato e bijuteria elaborados em negócios administrados por elas mesmas.

A coordenadora da Diretoria de Políticas para Mulheres Rurais do Governo brasileiro, Renata Leite, contou à Efe que o órgão tenta fazer com que estas trabalhadoras tenham visibilidade, já que até agora costumam ser os maridos que vendem o resultado de seu trabalho.

O Governo Federal lhes ajuda a acessar terras e créditos para explorá-la, assim como obriga que a propriedade pertença a elas e não só aos maridos ou aos filhos.

A feira é também um foco de reflexão sobre variados temas do campo, como a reforma agrária, a superação da pobreza no meio rural e a autonomia e emancipação dos jovens camponeses.

Autor: EFE
Fonte: EXAME


Biofuels made from algae, promoted by President Barack Obama as a possible way to help wean Americans off foreign oil, cannot be made now on a large scale without using unsustainable amounts of energy, water and fertilizer, the U.S. National Research Council reported on Wednesday.

“Faced with today’s technology, to scale up any more is going to put really big demands on … not only energy input, but water, land and the nutrients you need, like carbon dioxide, nitrate and phosphate,” said Jennie Hunter-Cevera, a microbial physiologist who headed the committee that wrote the report.

Hunter-Cevera stressed that this is not a definitive rejection of algal biofuels, but a recognition that they may not be ready to supply even 5 percent, or approximately 10.3 billion gallons (39 billion liters), of U.S. transportation fuel needs.

“Algal biofuels is still a teenager that needs to be developed and nurtured,” she said by telephone.

The National Research Council is part of the National Academies, a group of private nonprofit institutions that advise government on science, technology and health policy.

Its sustainability assessment was requested by the Department of Energy, which has invested heavily in projects to develop the alternative fuel.

In 2009, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture awarded San Diego-based Sapphire Energy Inc more than $100 million in grants and loan guarantees to help build a plant in New Mexico that will produce commercial quantities of algal biofuel. Two other companies received smaller amounts of federal assistance.

In February, as gasoline prices spiraled, Obama said algal biofuels had the potential to cut U.S. foreign oil dependence. He estimated that U.S. oil imports used for transportation could be cut substantially.

The National Research Council report shows that the government should continue research on algal biofuel as well as other technologies that reduce oil use, an Energy Department spokeswoman said.

“Today’s report outlines the need for continued research and development to make algal biofuel sustainable and cost-competitive, but it also highlights the long-term potential of this technology and why it is worth pursuing,” Jen Stutsman said in a statement.

The council’s report noted that future innovations, and increased production efficiencies, could enhance the viability of algal biofuels.


It said a main reason to use alternative fuels for transportation is to cut climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions created by burning fossil fuel. But estimates of greenhouse emissions from algal biofuels cover a wide range, with some suggesting that over their life cycle, the fuels release more climate-warming gas than petroleum, it said.

The product now made in small quantities by Sapphire uses algae, sunlight and carbon dioxide as feedstocks to make fuel that is not dependent on food crops or farmland. The company calls it “green crude.”

Tim Zenk, a Sapphire vice president, said the company has worked for five years on the sustainability issues examined in the report. “The NRC has acknowledged something that the industry has known about in its infancy and began to address immediately,” he said.

He said Sapphire recycles water and uses land that is not suitable for agriculture at its New Mexico site, where it hopes to make 100 barrels of algal biofuel a day by 2014.

The U.S. Navy used algal biofuel along with fuel made from cooking oil waste as part of its “Green Fleet” military exercises demonstration this summer, drawing fire from Republican lawmakers for its nearly $27 per gallon cost.

The council study also said it was unclear whether producing that much biofuel from algae would actually lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The report shows the strategy is too risky, said Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

“Algae production poses a double-edged threat to our water resources, already strained by the drought,” Michal Rosenoer, a biofuels campaigner with the group, said in a statement.

Industry group Algal Biomass Organization focused on the positives in its statement.

“We hope that policymakers and others involved in the future of the domestic fuel industry will recognize the NRC’s conclusion that sustainability concerns are not a definitive barrier to future growth.”

(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Christopher Wilson)

Author: Roberta Rampton and Deborah Zabarenko
Source: Reuters


An earthquake that killed nine people in Spain last year may have been triggered by decades of pumping water from a nearby natural underground reservoir, suggesting human activities played a role in moving Earth’s crust, scientists reported on Sunday.

The study published in the journal Nature Geoscience centered on the May 11, 2011, quake in the southern Spanish town of Lorca. In addition to the nine deaths, this relatively modest earthquake of magnitude 5.1 damaged numerous buildings in Lorca, an agricultural center.

The study’s lead author, Pablo Gonzalez of the University of Western Ontario, said he and his colleagues reckoned that the quake was related to a drop in the level of groundwater in a local aquifer, which can create pressure at the Earth’s surface.

To test that theory, they used satellite data to see how the terrain was deformed by the earthquake, and found that it correlated to changes in the Earth’s crust caused by a 273-yard (250-metre) drop in the natural groundwater level over the last five decades due to groundwater extraction.

Their findings suggest that human-induced stress on faults like the one near Lorca, known as the Alhama de Murcia Fault, can not only cause an earthquake but also influence how far the fault will slip as a result.

The groundwater was tapped by deeper and deeper wells to irrigate fruits and vegetables and provide water for livestock.

While this research does not automatically relate to other earthquakes, it could offer clues about quakes that occur near water in the future, Gonzalez said by telephone.

“We cannot set up a rule just by studying a single particular case, but the evidence that we have collected in this study could be necessary to expand research in other future events that occur near … dams, aquifers and melting glaciers, where you have tectonic faults close to these sources,” Gonzalez said.

He said this was different from a rash of minor earthquakes seen in Texas over the last two years, some of which occurred near wells where wastewater was injected deep underground.

In an accompanying article, Jean-Philippe Avouac of the California Institute of Technology said the implications could be far-reaching “if ever the effect of human-induced stress perturbations on seismicity is fully understood.”

“For now, we should remain cautious … We know how to start earthquakes, but we are still far from being able to keep them under control,” Avouac wrote.

Author: Deborah Zabarenko
Source: Reuters


Shrimp fishing in Taiwan has moved indoors over the years, and it now is a popular activity among city dwellers in Taipei and elsewhere.

Visitors wait for the shrimp to bite at Chuencheng, one of the older shrimp fishing pools in Taipei, Taiwan. (Ralph Jennings / For The Times / September 30, 2012)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Ben Lan threw a line in the water one recent afternoon and caught two fair-sized specimens in 10 minutes. With 10 years of experience, the 60-year-old retiree stood out from a couple of fellow anglers who looked on with envy.

It’s not unusual to hear a cheer go up when somebody lands a big one. Big means about 6 inches.

That’s because Lan and the others were casting for shrimp.

“It’s a leisure activity. Taiwan is too small, and there’s nothing else to do,” Lan said as he stuffed a just-caught live shrimp into a net suspended in the water at an indoor pool just outside urban Taipei.

Lan was one of a couple of dozen shrimp hunters who sat around the rectangular, concrete-walled 538-square-foot shrimp pool that weekday afternoon. They joined countless thousands of others in following an only-in-Taiwan trend that has grown popular enough to spawn websites on shrimp-baiting techniques and offers to meet for shrimp dates.

Operators of shrimp pools call it a form of recreation that evolved from the west Pacific island’s historical fixation on fishing. Over the years, fishing has become more difficult due to Taiwan’s urbanization. What’s more, sitting for hours on a windy, rainy pier has, for many, lost its luster.

Shrimp casting began outdoors in southern Taiwan about two decades ago. The sport eventually worked its way inside to satisfy city dwellers.

“Shrimp fishing is suitable for older people and children,” said Lin Shu-te, a senior staff member at the Shuang Cheng Leisure Shrimp pool in the hills of Taipei. “At sea, the sun is strong or wind is strong, but in here, those aren’t issues.”

With so many people sitting around murky pools waiting for bottom-crawling shrimp to bite, the recreation has morphed into a full-blown source of entertainment for dates, families or men on their day off from work. Some guys sip beer or chew betel nut — a legal stimulant in Taiwan — and chat while waiting for bites.

“You can feel proud and invite your friends to eat [shrimp] together,” said George Hou, an associate professor specializing in media and entertainment at I-Shou University in the southern city of Kaohsiung. “It’s done mostly in the evening. You can kill time. There’s no safety problem. And you can get some beers.”

Shrimp casting, regardless of the haul, costs $6 to $11 an hour, and the average stay is about two hours. Those keen on a long party may settle in for a late-nighter, as many pools stay open 24 hours.

“The rates are cheap, and the pool operators give you the equipment on site, though professionals will bring their own,” noted Taipei shrimp pool customer Chen Hsiao-tang. “You come and pay pocket change, that’s it.”

Chen caught a personal record of 15 shrimp in two hours at Chuencheng, one of the older pools in Taipei with 20 years in business and which easily attracts more than 100 customers at a time on weekends. One website lists about 70 commercial shrimp fishing pools in the island’s capital, Taipei, a 40% increase over estimates from three years ago.

Catching a shrimp isn’t as easy as it looks. Experienced anglers suggest measuring the depth of a pool to know how far to drop a line. One never knows how many shrimp the house has released into a pool, and they usually cluster at the bottom. Line in the water, baited ideally with fish eggs, the next phase is a wait of up to 30 or even 60 minutes.

Thai shrimp, which despite the name are raised in Taiwan, frequently fight back, dropping back into the pool if they win.

“Everyone’s skill, likewise the design of the rod, is different,” said Lin of Shuang Cheng Leisure Shrimp. “For old hands, more than 10 shrimp per hour isn’t bad, and there’s no guarantee that a new hand will get even one per hour.”

The longer the wait, the bigger the reward, said Chen Ke-chi, chef and co-owner of 258 Live Shrimp in the central Taiwanese city of Taichung.

Those with neither skill nor time can order from 258 Live Shrimp’s menu of 16 prepared shrimp dishes. It takes about a dozen or more average-sized shrimp, along with a vegetable dish, to make a meal for two.

At Chuan Chia Leh, a 22-year-old air-conditioned downtown Taipei shrimp pool, up to 40 people cast their lines as late as 3 a.m.

“Internet dates, organized groups and even contests come here, like seven or eight, 10 people together. They might even charter the whole venue,” owner Tsai Yao-cheng said. “And a lot of people who come here get to know one another as they cast.”

As part of the hourly rate, shrimp pools usually let customers grill their catch on site with coatings of salt, soy sauce and wasabi. The final step: eating it by the pool, along with a side of stir-fried cabbage or a few bottles of beer.

Jennings is a special correspondent.

Autor: Ralph Jennings
Fonte: Los Angeles Times


Os Açores podem vir a ser o primeiro geoparque do mundo na condição de arquipélago. (Foto: Daniel Rocha)

O Comité Coordenador da Rede Europeia de Geoparques adiou para Março a decisão quanto ao reconhecimento dos Açores como património geológico da Humanidade, foi revelado nesta quinta-feira.

“A candidatura não foi rejeitada. Mas é a primeira vez que a Rede de Geoparques tem um arquipélago a querer associa-se-lhe e isso tornou-se um problema para a própria estrutura”, disse José Leonardo Silva, coordenador da candidatura dos Açores.

A informação foi divulgada no encerramento da 11.ª Conferência Europeia de Geoparques, que, reunindo cerca de 300 responsáveis de 42 países, foi este ano organizada pelo Geoparque de Arouca, em parceria com a UNESCO – Organização das Nações Unidas para a Educação, Ciência e Cultura.

Para José Leonardo Silva, o adiamento “não foi uma desilusão”, porque em causa está apenas “um pedido de informação adicional” sobre o território das nove ilhas. “Não podemos pensar que isto foi um problema. Temos que pensar que estamos a colocar-nos do lado da solução”, sublinhou.

Em Portugal há actualmente dois geoparques: o de Arouca, cujos limites coincidem com aquele concelho, e o Naturtejo da Meseta Meridional, que abrange os municípios de Castelo Branco, Idanha-a-Nova, Nisa, Oleiros, Proença-a-Nova e Vila Velha de Ródão.

Segundo José Leonardo Silva, os Açores podem vir a ser o terceiro geoparque português e o primeiro do mundo na condição de arquipélago.

O Comité Coordenador da Rede de Geoparques “disse, e nós também achamos, que o Geoparque dos Açores é uma grande mais-valia para a Rede Europeia. Esperamos satisfazer todos os membros da Rede com as nossas respostas, para que consigamos entrar em Março próximo”, data da próxima reunião da estrutura, em Paris, acrescentou.

Ontem foram reconhecidos sete territórios como Património Geológico da Humanidade: Global Geopark da Catalunha Central (em Espanha), Bakani Baaton (Hungria), Sangingshan (China), Chablais (França), Carnic Alps (Áustria) e Batur (Indónesia), todos em registo de primeira adesão. O Geoparque da Ilha de Lesvos, na Grécia, também viu revalidada a sua classificação pela UNESCO, após um alargamento de território que obrigava a nova avaliação.

Autor: Lusa
Fonte: Ecosfera – Público


The Columbia River near the John Day Dam, east of the city of The Dalles, Ore. A Vancouver-based resource company has admitted effluent from its mining and smelting operations in southeast B.C. has polluted the Columbia River across the U.S. border in Washington state for more than 100 years. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

VANCOUVER – There used to be a beach in Washington state called Black Sand Beach.

Only it wasn’t sand that lined the banks of the Columbia River. It was slag, a pebbly waste laden with arsenic, mercury, lead and an alphabet soup of other metals left over from processing zinc at a smelter upstream, across the border in British Columbia.

The black sand has been hauled away, and on the eve of a lawsuit against smelter operator Teck Resources Ltd. for environmental damage caused by pollution from its plant in Trail, B.C., the Vancouver-based mining giant has admitted that effluent from the smelter has polluted the Columbia River in Washington state for more than a century.

Specifically, the company made a legal admission that: “Trail discharged solid effluent, or slag, and liquid effluent into the Columbia River that came to rest in Washington state, and from that material, hazardous materials under (U.S. environmental laws) were released into the environment,” Dave Godlewski, vice-president of environment and public affairs for Teck American, said in a telephone interview.

The discharges date from 1896 to 1995.

“That’s what we’ve agreed to. We’ve not talked about the amount of the release. We’ve not talked about the impacts of those releases. We’ve just agreed that there has been a release in the U.S.,” Godlewski said.

For the state Department of Ecology, the admission is a major victory in what has been a long, drawn-out fight.

“It’s very good news for us,” said spokeswoman Jani Gilbert. “It means that everyone is accepting the science… and we’re just closer in the process to getting some resolution of this.”

When Teck American, the U.S. subsidiary of Teck Resources, cleaned up Black Sand Beach two years ago, they hauled away 9,100 tonnes of slag.

The lawsuit brought by the Colville Confederated Tribes claims that 145,000 tonnes has been dumped directly into the river, where it has flowed downstream and settled on the riverbed. Bottom-feeding aquatic species eat it and the metals begin their journey up the food chain.

“It changes the ecosystem,” Gilbert said.

The lawsuit claims the metals have contaminated the surface water, ground waters and sediments of the upper Columbia River and Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir created by the Grand Coulee Dam. The 5,700-square-kilometre Colville reservation borders the Columbia River.

The cost of cleaning up the contamination has been pegged as high as $1 billion, and the state wants Teck to bear that cost.

Teck said the agreement will likely lead to a court judgment in favour of the plaintiffs, however, the court has yet to decide the extent of any injuries that may have resulted and what — if any — damages the company will have to pay.

In 2004, the EPA ordered Teck to conduct studies on the effects of heavy metals from the Trail smelter south of the border. Teck fought that order all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear their case.

In the meantime, Teck entered a voluntary agreement with the EPA in 2006 to begin studies. Those assessments, which will determine the question of legal liability and damages, continue and are expected to be complete by 2015.

“It will assess what the real risk to human health and the environment is, and ultimately if that risk is unacceptable to the EPA… how will we mitigate those risks,” Godlewski said.

Over the past few decades, Teck has invested more than a billion dollars into environmental improvements and in 1996 stopped dumping slag into the river. Just last year, the company said it would invest another $210 million to increase capacity of an electronic waste recycling operation at its zinc smelter and hydroelectric plant in Trail.

The company has argued that it alone cannot be held responsible for the environmental damage in the Columbia River, and on Monday said it “estimates that the compensable value of any damage will not be material.”

Godlewski said studies have shown that water in the Upper Columbia River meets the quality standards in both Canada and the U.S., beaches are safe for recreational activities, and fish in the river are as safe or safer to eat than fish in other waterways in Washington state.

But the ghosts of the company’s environmental past continue to haunt it today.

A study by Environment Canada a couple of years ago confirmed that groundwater had been tainted by metals that leached from old waste dumps from the 1950s to the 1980s. That groundwater was making its way into the Columbia River, and Environment Canada ordered a remediation plan.

Gilbert said the admission by Teck is precedent-setting, but the company said the major issue of the lawsuit — whether or not the U.S. authorities have jurisdiction over a company operating fully in Canada in compliance with Canadian regulations in place at the time — has not been resolved.

“I think the question really is a much broader one than just the Upper Columbia River and needs to be answered,” he said.

“These sorts of questions are going to be more and more prevalent over time, as people measure wind-borne or aerial-borne pollution from China coming to the United States, the whole question of greenhouse gases… as well as water-borne contaminants crossing borders. It’s a part of the law that has really not been explored that much.”

Author: Dene Moore, The Canadian Press
Source: The Huff Post Green


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