Latin America Green News: water marches in Chile, butterflies in Costa Rica, renewables Mexico
Posted April 29, 2014
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
April 20th-26th, 2014
Thousands of people and more than 70 organizations took to the streets on Saturday, April 26, in four simultaneous marches to demand sweeping reforms to Chile’s water code. The country’s water has been privatized since 1981 and critics argue that too much of Chile’s water is in the hands of too few companies. The situation is aggravated by a multi-year drought that is straining water resources for sectors across the board. The protesters are demanding a new water code entirely, which puts ownership of Chile’s water resources back in the hands of the state. (Radio Universidad de Chile 4/26/2014)
Similarly critical of Chile’s current water code, two senators asked the General Water Directorate, the government body in charge of managing water rights, to reject the water rights that the massive dam proposal HidroAysén has requested for its dams. Senator Guido Girardi pointed out that Endesa Chile, the majority owner of HidroAysén, owns 80% of the water in Chilean Patagonia, and that the company attained those water rights at minimal cost. Senator Antonio Horvath, who represents the Aysén region where the dams are proposed, said that this petition was part of a broader effort to re-nationalize Chile’s water, and that it would help “protect the south of Chile.” (ANSALatina 4/24/2014)
Eighteen tourist destinations in Chile will again receive protected status now that President Bachelet’s administration has overturned an eleventh-hour decision by former President Piñera. On his penultimate day of office ex-President Sebastian Piñera signed Decree 140, which cut the number of “Touristic Interest Zones” in the country to six, down from 24. The areas that lost that special status include Villarica Volcano near the city of Pucón, the northern El Tatio geothermal geyser field, and General Carrera Lake in the Patagonian region of Aysén. The special status allows nearby municipalities to receive state funding and resources to help preserve the sites. Bachelet’s Ministerial Tourism Committee overturned Decree 140, effectively returning the number of Touristic Interest Zones to 24. (The Santiago Times 4/22/2014)
Environmentalists in Costa Rica used Earth Day to call on the president-elect, Luis Guillermo Solís, to halt two major proposed projects: an international airport in the Osa Peninsula and a port in Limón. According to the Costa Rican Federation for the Conservation of the Environment (FECON), if these proposed projects move forward they would have major environmental and social impacts on the surrounding areas. (CR Hoy 4/22/14).
A recent study in Costa Rica looked at 3, 700 butterflies over a period of six months and concluded that , African palm plantations in Costa Rica have a negative impact on the biodiversity of nocturnal butterflies. In 2012, some 60,000 hectares were planted with African palm, mostly in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica. The study author notes that to survive in areas with palm plantation, butterflies need plant refuges and it will be necessary to develop mechanisms that balance production and conservation such as agroforestry or mixed cultivation. (CR Hoy 4/25/2014)
During a bilateral meeting in Mexico City, the leaders of Mexico and the United Arab Emirates discussed future potential energy projects. At the meeting, President Peña Nieto expressed his government’s willingness to expand cooperation between the two countries, including strategic alliances to develop renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal and wind. (El Economista 4/21/14).
Carlos Gay García, researcher at the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico calls for Mexico to move faster in its work against climate change. Gay García, who presented to the Mexican Senate on the recent findings of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, explained that while Mexico has taken steps to fight climate change, such as the General Law of Climate Change, it has also approved an energy reform that relies heavily on the production of fossil fuels. Mexico’s energy and climate policies have to be congruent with each other if climate change is to be successfully mitigated in the country. (El Economista 4/23/14).