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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
Original: http://goo.gl/vUEKs


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A Entidade Reguladora dos Serviços de Águas e Resíduos diz que a Comissão Europeia considera segura a água da torneira em Portugal.


A água abastecida aos portugueses cumpre em 98% as exigências de qualidade (PEDRO CUNHA)

Portugal deixou de ter processos de contencioso na Comissão Europeia devido à qualidade da água da torneira, depois de ter sido arquivado o último caso, de 1999 e 2000, disse o presidente da entidade reguladora do sector.

“A Comissão Europeia arquivou muito recentemente o processo de pré-contencioso que tinha levantado a Portugal relativamente à qualidade da água para consumo humano, um processo que se arrastava há mais de uma dúzia de anos e se baseava em factos ocorridos em 1999 e 2000”, disse à agência Lusa o responsável da Entidade Reguladora dos Serviços de Águas e Resíduos (ERSAR).

Para Jaime Melo Baptista, o arquivamento “quer dizer que a Comissão Europeia considerou que as medidas entretanto implementadas ao longo desta década foram adequadas e resolveram definitivamente os problemas”, eliminando a possibilidade de o país ser condenado pelo Tribunal de Justiça da União Europeia.

Em 1999, a Comissão Europeia constatava que Portugal não estava a tomar as medidas necessárias para corrigir incumprimentos de alguns valores, nomeadamente ao nível microbiológico, da presença de ferro e de manganês.

“É o claro reconhecimento de que a água da torneira em Portugal é segura e atingiu padrões de qualidade ao nível do que há de melhor na Europa graças a um grande esforço, nomeadamente das entidades prestadoras destes serviços”, salientou.

É considerada “água segura” aquela que é monitorizada de acordo com os padrões europeus e obtém resultados que cumprem os limites impostos e, em Portugal, em 1993 era apenas de 50% do total, tendo passado para 77% em 2000.

Actualmente, a água que é abastecida aos portugueses cumpre em 98% as exigências de qualidade, “um enorme avanço que nos dá a garantia de que a água da torneira é efectivamente segura”, realçou Melo Baptista.

“Continuamos a desenvolver acções, juntamente com os operadores, no sentido de atingir ainda alguns objectivos adicionais para os próximos anos, um dos quais passar de 98% para 99%, considerado um valor excelente em qualquer país do mundo”, disse ainda o presidente da ERSAR.

O objectivo de atingir 99% de água segura consta do Plano Estratégico de Abastecimento de Água e de Saneamento de Águas Residuais que entra agora no seu último ano, já que vigora até 2013.

A ERSAR também pretende dar condições para que os operadores utilizem cada vez mais os chamados “planos de segurança de água”, uma nova abordagem preconizada pela Organização Mundial de Saúde, segundo a qual o controlo da água é feito mais numa lógica preventiva, de avaliação dos riscos e evitando situações de degradação, do que correctiva.

Notícia corrigida para rectificar o nome de uma das substâncias encontradas pela Comissão Europeia em 1999: trata-se de manganês e não de manganésio, como estava escrito.

Autor: LUSA
Fonte: Ecosfera – Público
Original: http://goo.gl/jPjNX


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Jessica Sanchez, left, and her sister Marabel, who is blind, live in East Orosi, Calif., where water quality is so poor that they drink bottled water. In the stroller is Jessica’s son Jordan. (Diana Marcum, Los Angeles Times / November 22, 2012)

A Central Valley family shuns tap water except for bathing and gardening. They live in one of the many areas where the supply is contaminated by nitrates, arsenic or bacteria from agricultural runoff.

EAST OROSI, Calif. — This was to be the first year Jessica Sanchez was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner.

She began preparations Wednesday, crossing through her family’s small kitchen to a bottled water dispenser in the living room and filling a pan to wash the turkey.

She couldn’t use the tap water because East Orosi is one of many Central Valley farm communities where the supply is tainted — by nitrates, arsenic or bacteria traced to decades of agricultural runoff.

Jessica’s mother, Bertha Diaz, makes about $7.50 an hour picking grapefruit and lemons in the winter, grapes and blackberries in the summer. The cost of the tap water they use for bathing and gardening, plus the bottled water for drinking and cooking, is about 30% of her income.

On Wednesday, Diaz left for work at 4:30 am. Later in the morning, as she picked lemons, she called 19-year-old Jessica to tell her to be sure to finish washing the turkey with a vinegar rinse.

Jessica said her mother has a certain way of doing everything: folding laundry, holding a baby, washing a turkey. Sometimes the two squabble.

“We’re way too much alike. My grandmother says we are on exactly the same plane, so we hit heads,” Jessica said as she applied the vinegar.

The Sanchez family didn’t always live in East Orosi.

Before Jessica’s baby brother Mannie died, home had been in Orosi proper. In the town of 8,000, the water warnings come and go, depending on the level of chemicals from contaminated groundwater making it into wells.

Jessica’s family lived there in a little house. They could see their neighbor’s swimming pool through a hole in the fence. One day, when Mannie was 1 1/2 , he sneaked next door. Six-year-old Jessica found him floating dead in the pool.

The family moved. Three years later, sister Marabel went blind at the age of 13, a complication of diabetes. Multiple studies have linked poor drinking water to the disease.

In the 1970s, Tulare County released a report identifying 15 “non-viable” communities, East Orosi among them, where it would be a waste of money to concentrate water and sewer resources. The reasoning was that the communities were made up of farmworkers, and mechanical harvesters would be replacing them soon.

By the time Jessica was in sixth grade, her mother had started holding community water meetings at their house.

One night Jessica’s father, a Mexican farmworker, got a call from the lawyer working on his immigration papers, asking for a meeting.

“The next thing we got [was] a call saying he had been deported,” Jessica said.

Last year, when she called her father in Michoacan, Mexico, to tell him she was pregnant, she broke down and asked him to forgive her for failing him.

“You’re not the first girl this has happened to,” she remembers him saying. “You have your family. You’re not alone. You are one of the lucky ones.”

She named her son Jordan. She wanted a “J” name. She didn’t think until later that she had named him after sacred waters.

This Thanksgiving Day, Jessica woke to find her mother at home. The packinghouses were closed, so there was no picking.

Diaz said she was sad about losing out on the paycheck, but happy for some “rest” as she bustled around the kitchen making pork tamales — always walking over to the dispenser for water.

She sang a Mexican children’s song about stirring chocolate. Jordan, now 7 months, clasped his hands and seemed to move them to the melody. Diaz and her four children laughed.

Jessica’s idea for the 13-pound Butterball turkey was to heat up sugar until it was syrupy, then add the package of turkey seasoning and glaze.

But her mother got up first and ground spices in her molcajete and rubbed them on the turkey. The modest home, decorated with pictures of flowers and Jesus, filled with a sweet, spicy smell.

Jessica ground California chilies for the tamale sauce. As she worked, she talked about the Community Water Center, a coalition organization pushing for regional solutions.

From ages 12 to 17, the center was her second home. She overcame shyness and became one of its outspoken advocates.

Then she disappeared. She met a tall boy from Hanford, who she said got angry when she went to water meetings. After they broke up, she found out she was pregnant.

It wasn’t until after Jordan was born that Jessica told Susana De Anda, her mentor and the water center’s co-founder, why she had stopped volunteering.

“She told me: ‘Life put you through a lot and it didn’t stop you before. It won’t stop you now,'” said Jessica, who dyes her hair the color of red wine and punctuates stories with expressive eyes.

Jessica returned to organizing neighbors and speaking at presentations. Last month she celebrated when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Human Rights to Water Bill, stating that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water.”

It was Jessica who pushed for a Thanksgiving dinner.

“We won’t go around the table and say things out loud or anything. But inside, in my own little world, I can say thank you that I’m alive. I’m still breathing. And for the gift of my son and the way my family loves him,” Jessica said.

“I can say thank you for the food, and give a prayer for water.”

Author: Diana Marcum
Source: Los Angeles Times
Original: http://goo.gl/yHwxX


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The effects of the Midwest drought on prices for corn, meat and poultry are showing up on restaurant menus. Small eateries are being hit hardest.


Dan Horton, left, Anthony White and Richard Navarro have lunch in August at Smokin’ Jonny’s BBQ in Gardena. Owner Jon Sekiguchi says he’s selling beef ribs only on the weekends, when customers are more willing to splurge. He also says he’s struggling to find affordable beef sausage for his $6.95 smoked sausage sandwich. (Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times / October 14, 2012)

Smokin’ Jonny’s BBQ opened less than a year ago, but pricey corn on the cob has already disappeared from the menu.

Rising beef prices are causing owner Jon Sekiguchi headaches as well. His Gardena restaurant sells beef ribs only on the weekends, when customers are more willing to splurge. And he’s struggling to find affordable beef sausage for his $6.95 smoked sausage sandwich.

Scorching weather this summer in the Midwest left crops parched and livestock famished. Restaurants, already struggling with high fuel costs and a sluggish economy, are starting to feel the pinch of higher food costs.

“It’s a tough one,” Sekiguchi sighed. “I didn’t want to sell corn for $3 when I used to charge $1.50. And it used to be better quality too.”

Commodity prices were increasing even before the dry spell. Economists say even bigger hikes are ahead as the poor U.S. harvest ripples through the food chain.

Now fast-food giants, fancy eateries and even corner coffee shops are scrambling to adjust. The cost of food rivals labor as the top expense for most restaurants. Restaurateurs are revamping menus, reducing portion sizes and even considering staff cuts. In the months to come, they say, watch for smaller steaks, fewer tortillas per entree and maybe even menu-wide price increases.

Customers are already seeing a change. Gina Grad, a radio network content producer, said she’s noticing smaller servings, steeper bills and thinner crowds at the trendy restaurants in her Los Feliz neighborhood, where organic and locally grown ingredients reign.

The “only good thing” to come out of it: “The number of people out to brunch on weekends is down,” said Grad, 34. “You can finally get a table in less than an hour.”

Actor Chase Edmondson, 22, of North Hollywood, said he’s taken to ordering kids meals to combat menu shock.

“It’s kind of ridiculous when you’re getting a hamburger for $12,” Edmondson said.

Restaurant prices have been rising for more than a year. Wholesale food costs rocketed 8.1% last year, the largest jump in more than three decades. The Olive Garden’s Never-Ending Pasta Bowl, offered at $8.95 for the last five years, jumped to $9.95 in late August, partly because of higher food costs.

And this summer, a Big Mac cost $4.33 on average in the U.S., up from $4.20 in January and $4.07 a year earlier, according to the popular Big Mac index compiled by the Economist.

Those increases will continue, but at a faster pace.

The price of corn — a key component in livestock feed and an ingredient in powdered sugar, salad dressing, soda and more — catapulted 60% in early summer. A British trade group recently predicted “a world shortage of pork and bacon next year,” which most analysts interpreted to mean that higher prices are ahead.

In the meantime, chickens and turkeys are getting more expensive just in time for the holidays. Already, chicken prices are up 5.3% from a year earlier, while the cost of turkey and other poultry is up 6.9%. Eggs cost 18% more in September than they did a year earlier.

Zacky Farms in Fresno, one of the country’s largest turkey producers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month, blaming the rocketing price of animal feed.

Buffalo Wild Wings, the popular chicken wing chain based in Minneapolis, recently told analysts that it’s boosting menu prices by an average of 4% in its company-owned stores to help offset soaring wing costs.

Analysts expect overall food costs to rise 5% to 20% by the end of the year — a painful squeeze for businesses that, even in the most prosperous times, operate on tight margins with little room to maneuver.

“If the cost of the food goes up that much, it can pretty much wipe out their profit,” said John Davie, chief executive of food service partnership Dining Alliance. “Restaurants will be forced to look at everything from the phone bill to payroll to food costs to how they negotiate with vendors.”

Many big chains have avoided hefty menu price hikes thanks to long-term deals with their suppliers. It’s the little guys who are getting hammered hardest, said Don Krueger, an analyst at Motley Fool.

“Sophisticated large guys can hedge far into the future,” Krueger said. “The smaller mom-and-pop restaurants are going to get hit with the drought very shortly.”

Michael Colmaire, co-owner of Chicken Lady Cafe & Catering in Beverly Hills, said he’s loath to raise menu prices in a tough economy. But he can’t rule it out either.

“We’ll do everything we can up to our limit,” Colmaire said. “But we can’t sabotage our business and obviously we can’t work for free.

In lieu of price increases, some restaurants are scrimping on portions or dropping the extras — but many customers are noticing. Some are venting their frustration on social media.

Fast-food lover Sabrina Hartwell of Hesperia said she’s finding burgers with smaller, drier patties and fewer pickles and fries. “There aren’t as many specials anymore,” the 18-year-old said. “And when they’re available, they’re not as cheap.”

Brentwood restaurant consultant Kian Abedini said more eateries are turning to small plates and tapas dishes to save money. He’s noticing cheaper cuts of meat such as skirt and flank steaks on menus, along with more curry and rice dishes. Pickled items are showing up as well — they’re in vogue and less expensive than fresh foods, Abedini said.

Sherman Oaks real estate agent Jonathan Cohen, 46, said he, like other consumers, will be watching menu prices carefully.

“Eating out used to be much more automatic and spontaneous,” he said. “Now it’s more a point of discussion.”

Author: Tiffany Hsu
Source: Los Angeles Times
Original: http://goo.gl/hD7iU


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Estas medidas visam garantir a normal continuidade do abastecimento de água. Foto: Pedro Cunha

A Câmara de Alijó está a implementar um plano de contingência devido à seca, cortando nos gastos de água nas regas de jardins e fontes e apelando à população para uma racionalização dos consumos.

As chuvas que caíram no Douro neste início de Outono não chegaram para repor os níveis normais de água na albufeira de Vila Chã, localizada no concelho de Alijó, distrito de Vila Real.

Precisamente por causa da falta de precipitação que se registou nos últimos meses, a autarquia alertou nesta quinta-feira para um cenário de “seca severa”.

Nesse sentido, o município, liderado pelo socialista Artur Cascarejo, está a colocar em prática um plano de contingência que tem como objectivo precaver situações que, no limite, podem levar a eventuais falhas no abastecimento de água.

A autarquia está a cortar nos consumos, nomeadamente na redução da quase totalidade das regas de jardins, fontes e demais serviços municipais.

Está também a ser feito um apelo à população, através da distribuição, pelos CTT, de desdobráveis com conselhos de poupança, e ainda através das juntas de freguesias e dos padres, que na hora da missa irão alertar também para o uso mais sensato deste bem.

O objectivo é “sensibilizar, aconselhar e alertar a população para a importância da redução do consumo de água”.

Estas medidas e alertas visam, de acordo com a autarquia, “garantir a normal continuidade do abastecimento de água às populações, procurando estimular a redução do consumo, de modo a não se atingir um ponto de ruptura no sistema que impedisse o normal abastecimento de água”.

Autor: Lusa
Fonte: Ecosfera / Público
Original: http://goo.gl/g0kH9


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Presença no Oceano Antártico de 40 mil fragmentos plásticos por quilômetro quadrado, quantidade próxima da média global, revela que os impactos das atividades humanas estão indo além do que se pensava


Laëtitia Maltese e A.Peyrot / Expedição Tara

A região oceânica do extremo sul do planeta sempre foi considerada um refúgio natural imaculado, já que suas águas não realizam muito intercâmbio com os principais e mais poluídos oceanos. Assim, foi com muita surpresa e decepção que pesquisadores ingleses e franceses constataram a presença massiva de fragmentos plásticos próximos à Antártida.

“Não esperávamos encontrar uma quantidade tão alta de plásticos por aqui, até porque sempre consideramos esta área um ecossistema intocado e muito distante da sujeira da humanidade. O fato de termos localizado estes plásticos é um sinal de que o alcance dos seres humanos é verdadeiramente planetário”, afirmou Chris Bowler, coordenador do navio de pesquisas Tara.

O Tara, que já está viajando há mais de nove anos, possui a missão de cruzar todos os oceanos para investigar as consequências das mudanças climáticas nos ecossistemas marinhos e na biodiversidade.

Em sua passagem pelo Oceano Antártico, a equipe coletou amostras de água que revelaram a presença de mais de 40 mil fragmentos plásticos por quilometro quadrado. Este volume é muito próximo aos 46 mil da média global estimada pelo Programa de Meio Ambiente das Nações Unidas (PNUMA).

Apesar de a poluição oceânica já ser um problema reconhecido, imaginava-se que os níveis no Oceano Antártico fossem pelo menos dez vezes menores do que a média global.

“Levando em conta as correntes oceânicas, acreditamos que esta poluição seja proveniente do hemisfério sul. Assim, existe a grande probabilidade de que os países da região, como Austrália, África do Sul e os latino-americanos, sejam os responsáveis”, disse Bowler.

Apesar de muitas vezes invisíveis ao olho nu, os fragmentos, resultantes da decomposição de sacolas plásticas, garrafas e embalagens, representam um grande problema para o ecossistema e para o próprio ser humano.

“Ao reagir com a luz ultravioleta dos raios do sol e com o sal da água, os químicos que compõem os plásticos, que são muitas vezes tóxicos, são liberados e se aglutinam ao plâncton. Assim, toda essa sujeira começa a fazer parte da cadeia alimentar. Os peixes vão absorvê-la e nós acabaremos por fazer o mesmo ao comermos os peixes”, explicou Bowler.

Problema Mundial

O lixo marinho constitui uma das piores catástrofes ambientais do planeta e se agrava a cada ano pela falta de programas globais, uma vez que praticamente todos os países acabam contribuindo para este desastre.

Segundo o relatório Panorama Ambiental Global 5 (GEO 5), publicado pelo PNUMA em junho deste ano, pouco ou nenhum avanço foi registrado na prevenção, redução ou controle da poluição do meio ambiente marinho nos últimos anos.

De acordo com a entidade, pelo menos 267 espécies marinhas em todo o mundo são afetadas pelo emaranhamento ou ingestão de lixo marinho, incluindo 86% de todas as espécies de tartarugas marinhas, 44% de todas as espécies de aves marinhas e 43% de todas as espécies de mamíferos marinhos.

Além disso, a ingestão dos resíduos plásticos pelos seres humanos pode levar ao câncer, a problemas reprodutivos e a outras doenças.

“Esta poluição vai seguir flutuando por milhares de anos. A melhor maneira para lidar com isso é evitar que a situação piore, investindo em tecnologias biodegradáveis e em políticas de consumo consciente”, concluiu Bowler.

Saiba mais sobre a questão: http://www.globalgarbage.org/blog/

Autor: Fabiano Ávila
Fonte: Instituto CarbonoBrasil / Agências Internacionais
Original: http://goo.gl/doykz


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MARINA, Calif. — In the Central California coastal town of Marina, a $7 million desalination plant that can turn salty ocean waves into fresh drinking water sits idle behind rusty, locked doors, shuttered by water officials because rising energy costs made the plant too expensive.

Far to the north in well-heeled Marin County, plans were scrapped for a desalination facility despite two decades of planning and millions of dollars spent on a pilot plant.

Squeezing salt from the ocean to make clean drinking water is a worldwide phenomenon that has been embraced in thirsty California, with its cycles of drought and growing population. There are currently 17 desalination proposals in the state, concentrated along the Pacific where people are plentiful and fresh water is not.

But many projects have been stymied by skyrocketing construction costs, huge energy requirements for running plants, regulatory delays and legal challenges over environmental impacts on marine life. Only one small plant along Monterey Bay is pumping out any drinking water.

From Marin County to San Diego, some water districts are asking themselves: How much are we willing to pay for this new water?

“We found that our demand for water had dropped so much since the time we started exploring desalination, we didn’t need the water,” said Libby Pischel, a spokeswoman for the Marin Municipal Water District. “Right now, conservation costs less than desalination.”

Desalination plants can take water from the ocean or drill down and grab the less salty, brackish water from seaside aquifers. Because of their potential impacts to marine life, the California Coastal Commission reviews each project case-by-case.

There was great fanfare in 2009 when the last regulatory hurdle was cleared to build the Western Hemisphere’s largest desalination plant in Carlsbad, north of San Diego.

At the time, it was proposed that the $320 million project would suck in 100 million gallons of seawater and be capable of producing 50 million gallons of drinking water a day. It was expected to come online by this year.

Since then, the plant owner, Poseidon Resources LLC, has been negotiating a water purchase agreement and is close to clinching a 30-year deal with the San Diego County Water Authority, a wholesaler to cities and agencies that provide water to 3.1 million people.

The compact is essential for Poseidon to obtain financing to build what has become a $900 million project, which includes the seaside plant and a 10-mile pipeline. The San Diego agency hopes the plant opens in 2016 and anticipates desalination will account for 7 percent of the region’s supply in 2020. It estimates the cost is comparable to other new, local sources of drinking water, such as treated toilet water or briny groundwater.

Interest is still high, but “people are realizing that desalination isn’t a magic fix to the state’s water issues,” said coastal commission water expert Tom Luster.

Water can be de-salted in different ways. Poseidon’s project will use reverse osmosis. Other plants shoot ocean or brackish water at high pressure through salt-removing membrane filters. Because pumps must be used constantly to move massive amounts of water through filters, these facilities are extremely energy intensive.

Also, in many cases, desalinated water is pricier than importing water the old-fashioned way – through pipes and tunnels. And it is cheaper to focus on conservation when possible: new technologies like low-flow toilets and stricter zoning laws that require less water-intensive landscaping have helped curb demand in communities throughout the state.

Desalination has been around for years in Saudi Arabia, other Arab Gulf states and Israel, which last year approved the construction of a fifth desalination plant. The hope is that the five plants together will supply 75 percent of the country’s drinking water by 2013.

The process also has helped ease thirst in places such as Australia, Spain and Singapore. Experts say it has been slower to catch on in the United States, mainly because companies face tougher rules on where they can build plants and must endure longer environmental reviews. Poseidon, for example, is facing opposition by environmental groups over its proposed plans to build another facility in Huntington Beach. The company has received several permits for the Orange County project, but still needs approval from the coastal commission.

About six miles south of the ghost desalination plant in Marina, the mechanical whir coming from a nondescript cinderblock building in a Sand City industrial park is the only evidence that the state’s sole operating municipal desalination plant is at work.

The $14 million facility has the ability to produce up to 600,000 gallons a day of drinkable water for the town of about 340 people. Sand City’s plant now produces half that amount each day; a third is used by the city with the rest sent elsewhere in Monterey County.

City leaders hoped to develop the former military town into an artsy, Bohemian beachside destination. With no other possible water options, they turned to desalination. “We’re just like Saudi Arabia. There’s nowhere else to get water and we want to develop,” said Richard Simonitch, the city’s civil engineer.

It’s not that easy in Monterey Peninsula, where regional water use from development has exceeded its yearly rainfall replenishment and desalination is one of the only options available.

Proposals have been fraught with mistakes, political infighting and scandal, and have cost Monterey area ratepayers tens of millions of dollars.

Earlier this year, state utilities regulators rejected Monterey County’s desalination plan, citing problems with environmental review. The plan was also mired in alleged corruption by a county water official, who now faces criminal charges.

Still, desalination will be an important part of the Central Coast’s future: the state ordered water suppliers to stop drawing from the Carmel River, its main source of the precious resource, starting in 2017. Even officials in Marina, with its shuttered plant, see a future in which demand will require their current desalination plant to resume operation and are planning another, larger plant to help make up for the expected water loss.

“Water politics in Monterey County is a blood sport,” said Jim Heitzman, general manager of the Marina Coast Water District.

Author: Jason Dearen and Alicia Chang
Source: Huff Post Green
Original: http://goo.gl/0kSqi


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