^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ J. Michael Williamson Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <http://whale.wheelock.edu> 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 From: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET> To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET> Subject: ENVIRONMENT: CONCERN OVER CON ENVIRONMENT: CONCERN OVER CONTAMINATION OF ... 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 reserve." 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 illegal. 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.