Michael Williamson (
Tue, 4 Feb 1997 11:06:12 -0500 (EST)

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 617.566.7369

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 12:55:00 GMT
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>


  GUATEMALA CITY, (Jan. 28) IPS - Planned transport of timber by
barge along the Rio Dulce River, one of the most beautiful in
Guatemala, has stirred intense protests from environmentalists
opposed to the move.
   Jorge Schippers and Magali Rey Sosa of the non-governmental group
Madre Selva (Mother Forest), said that the U.S. company Forestal
Simpson had already badly polluted the Cienaga and Chocon Machacas
rivers in the eastern department of Izabal.
   The activists warned the National Environment Commission (CONAMA)
and the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) that the Rio
Dulce River could face the same fate.
   This river, also in the department of Izabal in northeast
Guatemala, runs into the Caribbean bay of Amatique, near the town
of Livingston. Its mouth is also close to the important shipping
terminal of Puerto Barrios.
   Schippers and Rey Sosa confirmed the nurseries of the Gmelina
species planted by Simpson Forestal on the company lands "were
transported along with great quantities of fertilizer along the
Chocon Machacas River, in the protected area of the manatee
   Rey Sosa explained that when it rains, the fertilizer being
transported runs off in a dissolved form into the river, a
situation which is worsened by the manner in which the Forestal
Simpson officers treat the bags containing it.
   Schippers, meanwhile, said the company had cut down more than
10,000 Manaco palms, used by the Izabal inhabitants to build roofs
for their ranch houses.
   Forestal Simpson asked the government for permission to use the
Rio Dulce River as a route to transport wood in barges.
   The deputy for the department of Izabal, Augusto Ponce, supported
the company request, saying the U.S. company generated employment
in the zone.
   However, CONAMA coordinator, Francisco Asturias, warned that CONAP
had not yet evaluated the environmental impact of the project
presented by ForestalSimpson, and that until this happens the
passage of barges transporting timber along the Rio Dulce will be
   Meanwhile, Madre Selva warned that the transportation of timber in
barges along this river could cause accidents, as well as alter
the ecosystem, especially the natural habitat of the manatee.
   Michael Mussack, director general of Forestal Simpson, told the
Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre that his company aimed to use the Rio
Dulce to transport timber because they consider it "the most
profitable, least contaminating and safest option."
   Mussack added the company experts reached this conclusion after
comparing the water route with land and rail options. He also said
a barge makes less noise and produces less contamination than the
speed boats and tourist yachts which currently cruise the river.
   The Forestal Simpson representative said the barges would have
special navigation equipment to avoid accidents, the speed of the
barges would be only four knotsper hour, and the timber would be
packed into special containers to prevent the residues from leaking
into the water.
   Mussack argued that the company had fulfilled its environmental
responsibilities, saying that it had created biological corridors
-- strips of untouched natural flora that will allow the fauna to
migrate -- in its plantations, establishing "mosaic plantations"
which offer the animals access to water and connect them all to
natural drainage.
   He said the sustainable development measures imposed by the company
mitigated any possible negative effects, as they impede the
migration of people to the park, where a large part of the
development or Rio Dulce is located.
   "We evaluated the impact (of the project) on water quality and on
the flora and fauna, and we concluded that there will not be any
negative impact on the manatee population, a endangered species,"
he said.
   But the argument of Forestal Simpson did not convince the
environmental groups, who vigorously oppose the authorization of
timber transport along the river.
   The Audubon Association of Guatemala declared that if the project
is approved it will create a precedent for other companies
interested in doing the same. The transport of timber on barges,
said the Audubon group, is risky and could destroy an area reserved
for ecotourism development.
   Schippers admitted that the activity of Forestal Simpson had
generated hundreds of jobs on the banks of the Rio Dulce, but he
noted that the workers carry out their jobs in subhuman conditions,
with salaries of approximately a dollar and a half per day.
   Rey Sosa accused the U.S. company of intimidating some of the
opponents to its operations.
   Ex-president Jorge Serrano Elias in 1993 ordered the creation of
a protected zone around the Rio Dulce which could not be converted
into an industrial zone, and where any activities affecting the
ecosystem of the region be allowed.