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Latin America Green News: Exploring tidal power in Chile, capturing carbon in Costa Rica, developing solar-powered industry in Mexico, policing Latin America's forests

Amanda Maxwell

Posted February 22, 2013 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, Solving Global Warming, The Media and the Environment

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

February 16-February 22, 2013

Chile

Enersis, the owner of Endesa—the company that controls 51% of HidroAysén—believes that the mega-dam project will resume this year. Among the remaining roadblocks is a permit for the construction of a transmission line needed to move electricity from the dams to the country’s central electric grid. Approval of the line is pending an environmental impact assessment. Surpassing this hurdle, however, does not guarantee a clear go-ahead. The project is likely to face additional challenges, including securing its implementation in legally protected areas and consulting with indigenous groups where development impacts their territories, a process mandated by ILO Convention 169. (Pulso 2/19/2013; Diario Electrónico 2/20/2013)

Controversy continues to swirl around Barrick Gold Corporation’s Pascua Lama mining project in northern Chile. According to a statement presented to the Copiapó Court of Appeals, the company, which is accused of contributing to the pollution and melting of nearby glaciers, is attributing the observed glacial melt to climate change. The Toronto-based Barrick Gold—the world’s largest gold mining company—is currently facing four lawsuits in the country. (The Santiago Times 2/19/2013)

The turbulent waters of Chile’s Chacao Channel may hold significant potential for tidal power, claims new research from a group of Chilean and American scientists. The channel is estimated to have the third-strongest tidal current in the world, representing about 2,000 MW of energy potential. The Ministries of Energy and the Environment have offered support for developing Chile’s tidal and wave energy potential, although commercial production remains far off. (The Santiago Times 2/20/2013)

Costa Rica

Blue carbon—carbon dioxide stored in coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests, saltmarshes and seagrass meadows—can help Costa Rica become carbon-neutral by 2021. The Térraba-Sierpe National Wetlands alone account for approximately 40% of the country’s carbon storage potential. Coastal wetlands sequester carbon up to 100 times faster than terrestrial forests, although deforestation and soil degradation threaten these ecosystem nation-wide. (The Costa Rica News 2/17/2013)

The Costa Rican coast guard has detected 14 illegal fishing vessels operating in the Golfo Dulce, intercepting one and identifying 13 others. This was the first operation undertaken by the country’s National Coast Guard Service after the death of 280 endangered sea turtles this past January raised suspicions of illegal fishing activities in the area. (El Financiero 2/14/2013)

Mexico

Specialists from the National Institute for Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INOE) have developed a solar-powered industrial steam generator as part of INOES’s program to advance solar energy technologies for the state of Puebla. The device promises to improve the competitiveness of the state’s rural industries, especially those that undertake pasteurization, distillation and dehydration processes. (Ecoticias 2/21/2013)

Speaking at the launch of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy, a UN-backed initiative that will help 30 countries build their national green economy strategies, Mexico’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources reiterated the country’s commitment to sustainable development. Among the national goals outlined by Minister Guerra Abud are achieving sustainable and low-carbon growth, preserving the country’s biological diversity, and promoting efficiency in water management. (Semarnat Press Release, 2/19/2013)

Paraiso del Mar, a large-scale resort development in La Paz, Baja California Sur, is facing new legal troubles after the discovery of several anomalies in the granting of its environmental permits. In a recently released decision, the Federal Court for Fiscal and Administrative Justice determined that the project was given a legal go-ahead by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources even though it was not in compliance with Ministry’s regulation on mangrove protection. This decision has effectively nullified the project’s environmental impact assessment. (El Sudcaliforniano 2/21/2013)

Regional

INTERPOL has seized around eight millions of dollars’ worth of timber and made almost 200 arrests across Latin America in its first international operation targeting illegal logging. Carried out in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela, the operation sought to foster cooperation among national environmental law enforcement agencies as well as with INTERPOL and other international organizations. (INTERPOL media release 2/19/2013)

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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