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Latin America Green News: Chile's Pascua Lama faces permanent suspension, Costa Rica readies for Obama, Mexico needs cleaner air, and Central America at risk from climate change

Amanda Maxwell

Posted April 26, 2013

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Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

April 20-25, 2013

Chile

Daniel Fernández, the Executive Vice President of HidroAysén has stated that the mega-dam project has concluded its first phase by securing environmental approvals and finalizing technical and engineering studies. Despite this announcement, the project is still awaiting a decision from the Committee of Ministers regarding several claims levied against it by opposition groups. (Diario Estrategia 4/25/2013)

Chile’s Environmental Minister has announced that Barrick Gold—the Toronto-based mining company that is facing mounting legal troubles associated with its Pascua Lama mining project in northern Chile—must comply with all of the country’s environmental requirements or face the permanent suspension of the project. The warning comes after the company’s CEO stated that Barrick is, in fact, ready to suspend the mining initiative unless it receives further regulatory and legal clarity from Chilean authorities. The company’s has already invested more than US$4,800 million in the project. (El Dínamo 4/24/2013; El Ciudadano 4/24/2013)

Close to 120 civil society groups marked international Earth Day in Chile by staging a massive march to support better water management. The social and environmental organizations called for the active recovery and defense of the country’s water resources and the repeal of the Water Code—a 1981 legislation that paved the way for market-based allocation of water rights to the highest-value users. Meant to improve efficiency, activists have long claimed that the code does not take into consideration local water-use priorities. (La Tercera 4/22/2013)

Five women from rural villages in Chile’s Atacama Desert traveled to India to learn how to install and repair solar panels. Participating in an initiative of the Barefoot College—an India-based community development organization—the women attended an intensive six-month course on the installation and maintenance of solar power systems. Upon completion of the course, each woman received a solar panel kit that they will have to install and maintain for at least five years. (The Santiago Times 4/25/2013)

Costa Rica

Although only one percent of Costa Rica’s forests is open to commercial development—amounting to just four trees for every 500—excessive legal controls have put increased pressure on forests and encourage the growth of illegal and uncontrolled trade, asserted Guillermo Navarro of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Calling for better management of the country’s forests, Navarro emphasized that a more efficient governance structure can regenerate forests, increase carbon sequestration, protect endemic or endangered species, and generate income from timber sales. (El Financiero 4/25/2013)

Taking advantage of President Obama’s visit to Costa Rica next week, the Ministry of Energy and the Environment will propose a new trade agreement focused on the exchange of hydrogen and natural gas between the two nations. The proposal will seek to boost hydrogen exports from Costa Rica—where the fuel is currently being tested for use in transportation—as well as create a favorable gas import relationship between the U.S. and the Central American region. (El Financiero 4/25/2013)

Mexico

Air pollution-related deaths in Mexico are the second highest in Latin America, according a new study completed by the U.S.-based Clean Air Institute. Moreover, the figure is registering an upward trend, increasing by 15% between 2004 and 2008. In reaction to the report, a number of civil society groups called for more robust government policies to combat air pollution in the country. (La Prensa 4/26/2013)

Juan José Guerra Abud, Mexico’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, has announced his support for several environmental programs under development in the state of Tamaulipas, including the promulgation of wind energy, recovery of several native species, and proper management of solid waste. The Minister and the state’s governor also signed a 9 millions peso (just over US$734,000) agreement to boost the state’s Sustainable Schools program. (Uniradioinforma 4/18/2013)

In addition to increased finding for Tamaulipas, the country’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has allocated more than 45 million pesos (close to US$3.7 million) to support sustainable projects in Michoacan. The funding, which will be directed to support the design and operation of environmental programs that promote sustainable development in the state, is part of the “National Crusade Against Hunger”, a country-wide program that strives to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty in 400 of the poorest municipalities across Mexico. (Quadratin 4/25/2013)

Regional

Central America’s forests are facing increasing pressure from expanding agriculture land, claims a new study completed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The region is likely to experience a 30% expansion of land used for agriculture during the next four decades, diminishing the extent of forests and grasslands, as well as savannas and shrublands by 33% and 83%, respectively. The report also warned of potential reductions in hydropower capacity due to rising regional temperatures.  (El Financiero 4/24/2013; El Financiero 4/23/2013)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America News archive or read our other International blogs.

This week’s news was compiled by Maria Belenky.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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