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Tuesday, November 20 2018 @ 01:15 PM UTC

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Cerro Patacon starts process of capture of polluting gases

Environmental IssuesThe emission of toxic gases from the decomposition of waste is a concern to the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the effects it produces on the health of the population and the greenhouse effect on the ozone layer.

To reduce these effects, incentive measures were taken for the countries to adopt. In Panama, the recent fire at the sanitary landfill in Cerro Patacón made the people responsible of this landfill aware in regards to this pending task.

"We had to comply with one of the requirements established in the contract which is capturing the biogas emanating from the decomposition of garbage," said Juan Camilo Alvarez, manager of the landfill.

Close to the company Urbalia S.A.’s second anniversary of managing this landfill, it was reported that this fire caused damages in the piping system and in eight accumulation wells, delaying the process of gas flare and capture.

However, the system will not be fully operational until the first semester of the year, reported Alvarez. This announcement was given after the company received the approval from the UN to start the project of the capture and registry system, valued in two million dollars.

Once the system is operational, which will have a capacity of handling five thousand cubic meters of gas per hour and will later burn them, daily records will be issued and the UN will receive them periodically.

"With this process, the international institution will issue carbon dioxide certificates which will result in economical incentives for the Government”, said Alvarez. The system is interconnected between phase 1 and 2 of the sanitary landfill with 47 and 7 accumulation wells, respectively.

One component of the contract between the Government and Urbalia establishes the emission of carbon dioxide through a recognized system of treatment, and treatment of leachate (contaminated material) product of the decomposition.

For the latter process, the administration reported they are waiting for the treatment plant to arrive, valued at $1.5 million.

Each of the components is under evaluation of the system, following the damage suffered due to the fire reported in the landfill. "In Panama, Urbalia will be the first company to be accredited by the UN as the only one with expertise in the handling of gas flare and capture, which in turn are converted into carbon credits, established by the Kyoto Protocol," said the businessman.

Polution

While the operation of carbon credits is started, the National Environment Authority (ANAM) is still evaluating the polluting effects of the fire in Cerro Patacón.

For example, the second report from ANAM on the technical evaluation of the air quality during the 18th and 20th day of March revealed there was a moderate degree of pollution particularly affecting a radius of 5 kilometers in Ancon, Betania and part of San Miguelito, according to the northeast wind direction, heading to the southeast.

"During the last hours, higher concentrations than those normally measured have been seen, it can be considered that the levels of particles indicate a moderate degree of pollution, which affects the sensitive groups of the population, such as children, seniors, patients with respiratory or cardiac conditions, considered as risk groups”, was the result of the report regarding the incidence of smoke emission, product of the fire which is still being investigated by the authorities.

The Cerro Patacón landfill, with a capacity of 2 thousand 700 daily tons of garbage from the districts of Panama and San Miguelito, is still pending to open the third phase. The gas capture systems are suited for the three “mountains” of garbage.

(Panama America)

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Forest Fire In Boquete

Environmental IssuesA forest fire that consumed 4 hectares in the sector of Alto Quiel in the district of Boquete was controlled this afternoon by firemen from Boquete, Dolega and David, stated the Commander José De La Cruz.

The fire started at five in the morning and it was not until past one o'clock when they finally managed to control the fire with the participation of 20 units of the Fire Department and the support of the community.

The commander of the Fire Department in Chiriqui stated they cannot confirm if the fire was intentional or not, since this took place on private land, and it was threatening to advance towards the forests in this important touristic district in Chiriqui.

(Dia a Dia)

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Investment Of $183 Million Towards Cleaner Production

Environmental IssuesThe Panamanian industry has invested around $183 million in the last ten years, with the purpose of creating a much cleaner production that allows environmental improvement, informed a business related source.

The international consultant, Anne Brunia, told Acan-Efe "most of this investment has been applied to residual water treatment plants and waste control systems, especially in electric plants, with significant benefits."

"Most of the companies linked with residual water treatment plants, for example, have reduced pollution in a 75%”, said Brunia after participating in the symposium “Cleaner Production”, organized by the Industries Union of Panama (SIP) and the National Authority of the Environment (ANAM).(Critica)

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Second Fire In La Yeguada Destroyed 300 Acres Of The Forest

Environmental Issues300 acres of pine trees burned down, this was the result of the second forest fire which lasted more than 12 hours in La Yeguada nature reserve in the province of Veraguas, said Geremías Aguilar, regional administrator of the Environmental Authority (ANAM) .

In less than thirty days there have been two wildfires recorded, these have destroyed at least 1,200 acres of the pine tree forest. This situation has raised alarm among officials who take care of La Yeguada park.

For Colonel Edward Cheng of the Fire Department of Veraguas, this second fire was a lot worse than the first one, as they had to use about 20 firefighters to put it out. However, it was brought under control in less time preventing the destruction of more trees.

Cheng announced next week the fire department will be meeting with officials from the ANAM, mayors and magistrates to initiate investigations of these fires, which have left irreparable damage to the natural reserve and the environment.

Meanwhile Aguilar said investigations have to be done, because this can not continue and nature should not be affected anymore. (Estrella)

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ANAM Starts Investigation Of Forest Fires In Boquete

Environmental IssuesMauricio Fuentes,The administrator of the National Environmental Authority(ANAM) in the province of Chiriquí, confirmed they have opened an investigation of the environmental crimes due to the burning of twelve acres of land in Boquete in the area of the National Park in Volcán Baru.

Sources said the investigation began after a brief report was given to the Fire Department in Boquete about the fire, this fire consumed twelve acres of native trees, pine trees, stubble and coffee plantations in the area.

The ANAM Regional Administrator said staff will also undertake an investigation for alleged environmental damage and other areas near the zone where the fire occurred and in the area of Las Huacas, which also reported a forest fire.

Ten wildfires have been recorded so far this year in areas near La Amistad of Cerro Punta and the National Park in Volcán Baru, also in Boquete and Volcan, fires which have consumed more than 500 acres of forests and many trees. (TVN)

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Fire In Chupá Has Been Controlled

Environmental IssuesAfter ten days of hard work, firefighters in the province of Los Santos, along with residents of the community of Chupá, managed to control the forest fire in Cerro Chupá.

According to official reports, the fire reached 80 hectares of land, and because of this, the National Environmental Authority will conduct an inspection to determine the extent of environmental damage.

Claudio Escalona, firefighter chief in Los Santos, said in this operation, units of La Villa, Sabanagrande and Las Tablas Fire Departments helped. (Dia A Dia)

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Coral reef growth linked to air pollution: study

Environmental Issues A research team linked airborne particles caused by volcanic activity and air pollution to episodes of slow coral-reef growth.

Like tree rings, long-lived coral skeletons preserve a record of coral growth. Previously, scientists linked coral-growth patterns in the Caribbean to a phenomenon called the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation—fluctuations in sea-surface temperatures and incoming sunlight.

In order to better predict the effects of climate change and human disturbance on reefs, Lester Kwiatkowski, University of Exeter, and researchers from the University of Queensland, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization and STRI analyzed coral-growth records from Belize and Panama spanning the period from 1880 to 2000. An Earth-system model simulation told them how well sea-surface temperature, short-wave radiation and aragonite-saturation state, a measure of ocean acidification, predicted changes in coral growth.

Their data came from several coral cores drilled in reefs near the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal formed by the coral species Siderastrea siderea between 1880 and 1989, whereas samples from the Turneffe atoll in Belize showed growth fluctuations in the coral species Montastrea faveolata from 1905 to 1998.

Particles from air pollution, primarily sulfate, reflect incoming sunlight and make clouds brighter reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the sea surface. Coral growth corresponded closely to sea surface temperatures and light levels. Growth fluctuations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were largely driven by volcanic activity.

Researchers explain a dive in surface temperatures and coral growth in the 1960s by increased air pollution associated with post-World War II industrial expansion in North America and to a lesser extent in Central and South America.

The influence of human aerosol emissions was more pronounced in coral cores from Belize, perhaps because Belize is closer to sources of industrial emissions. Fluctuations unexplained by the model, especially in the growth records from Panama, probably result from runoff from deforestation and from the construction of the Panama Canal waterway.

"The coral growth chronology for Panama allowed us to identify the effects of human interventions at the beginning of 1900s, but the decline in growth observed by the middle of the 20th century corresponding to the beginnings of the industrial era in coastal Panama remained unresolved by the model," said Héctor Guzmán, staff scientist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who participated in the study.

"Our study suggests that coral ecosystems are likely to be sensitive to not only future global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration but also to regional aerosol emissions associated with industrialization and decarbonization," added Kwiatkowski. (fis.com)

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Searching For Manatees

Environmental IssuesOn board a floating bus, a scientific team investigates the last manatees of the Caribbean coast near the border between Costa Rica and Panama, to protect this endangered species.

The project to verify the lowering population of manatees in the Bocas del Toro is part of a Panamanian-Costa Rican scientific proposal for an inventory of biodiversity of their shared border of the Caribbean coast, according to the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research (STRI).

Research on the so-called "sea cows", peaceful animals, timid and vegetarians that can measure up to fifteen feet and weigh 600 kilos, began in February and will last twelve months,said the biologist, Héctor Guzmán .

The initiative arose from an agreement between the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica Seas and the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) of Panama, and the study focuses on the area of the Río Sixaola, a wetland on the Caribbean coast.

Specifically developed in protected areas of the Refuge of Wildlife Gandoca Manzanillo, Costa Rica, and Wetland of International Importance San San Pond Sak in Changuinola in the Panamanian province of Bocas del Toro, said Guzmán.

San San Pond Sak posseses ecosystems of wetlands and it also has a marine influence as the rivers that cross it: the Changuinola, San San and Sixaola, according to the ANAM. (Mi Diario)

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Gallons Go To Waste In Cerro Batea

Environmental IssuesHundreds of gallons of water are wasted in Cerro Batea, residents demand an urgent repair of the water storage tank.

A football field completely flooded and water-filled ditches was what caused an overflow of the water tank reserve of more than 25,000 gallons.

People, who live in the area, say that it is not the first time this happens, so they call upon the authorities of the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN).

Due to water waste, people living in the higher areas of Cerro Batea were left without water.

This pump supplies water from the communities of La Pavita, La Palmita and Santa Rita, places that do not have enough water pressure. (TVN)

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Audubon Victory For Panama Bay

Environmental IssuesWashington, D.C.-- The Bay of Panama received a reprieve from destructive development as the Panamanian Supreme Court reinstated the protected status for the Bay of Panama wetlands, removing the temporary suspension it had placed on the protected area a year ago.

The Court noted, “it is necessary to promote its conservation, protection and management for sustainable use for present and future generations."

“We commend this first critical step in securing the long-term conservation of this critical habitat; “said John Beavers, VP Audubon’s International Alliances Program. “There is a long road ahead but I am heartened to hear that the Supreme Court’s decision revolved around the need to promote the conservation and sustainable use of the Bay of Panama Wetlands for present and future generations.”

While Panama Bay was recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area and a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar convention, the Bay’s protected status was reversed by Federal officials in Panama in April 2012. Many of the amazing ecosystems of Panama Bay are threatened by rampant poorly planned development. Panama City’s ongoing building boom endangers these critical ecosystems by pollution and eastward urban sprawl.

More than twenty-four migrant bird species from the U.S. and Canada that are of particular conservation concern depend on these habitats to survive. These include more than 30% of the global population of the Western Sandpiper and 22% of the global population of Whimbrel. The Mangroves and wetlands of Panama Bay are also vital to other globally threatened wildlife including Jaguar, Tapir, Spider Monkey, American Crocodile, and Loggerhead Sea Turtle and support the fishing industry for the country. Essential wildlife habitats are being filled at an alarming rate to make way for cheap housing, high-end recreational developments and industrial zones.

The National Audubon Society joined forces with the Panama Audubon Society in their battle to protect the bay. PAS is addressing this with a public awareness campaign in eastern suburbs and further developing scientific justification, for the protection and management of the Bay’s sensitive coastal resources. The project is reversing misconceptions of wetlands being wastelands of little economic value. Wetlands are not only vital for absorbing floodwaters, but essential nurseries for fish and crustaceans that form the base of Panama’s marine economy.

The vital wetlands has been high on the agenda for Audubon, whose Board of Directors visited Panama in February to see for themselves the importance of this habitat for up to two million shorebirds a year. The group was led by Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold, and a fleet of Vice-presidents devoted to protecting wetlands that support the flyways that lace together North and Latin America. Says Francis Grant-Suttie, VP for the Atlantic Flyway, “We now align our work along the flyways of the Americas—Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific. By connecting the Audubon network all along each of these migratory pathways for birds, we can weave a seamless web of conservation.”

More about Panama Bay threats in Audubon Magazine.

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AES Panama Fined Due To Oil Spillage

Environmental IssuesThe National Environmental Authority (ANAM) fined the company AES Panama $9,000 because of a fuel spill in the Estí river in the district Gualaca.

The incident occurred July 15th, 2011 when the residents reported the presence of fuel in the waters of that river.

The AES Panama Company said that the people responsible for the spill at that time, was the Ossa Seli Company, responsible for the repair of the hydroelectric tunnel in the Estí, and therefore requested that the company pay the fine. (Prensa)

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Díaz Confirms That The Fire In Cerro Patacón Is Well Confined

Environmental IssuesThe health minister, Javier Díaz, said Wednesday the fire at the Cerro Patacón Landfill, which began on March 19th, is well controlled.

"The fire is quite confined," he said. Diaz hopes the situation can be controlled 100% in the next few hours.

The minister said they still needed to make sure there are no underground fires to say everything is remedied.

He also said no smoke is emanating, in comparison to the smoke from a few days ago. The smoke is not toxic to the environment, he added.

The official said the levels that have been measured with the University of Panama show that the situation has normalized. That's good, said the minister on Telemetro Reporta. (Prensa)

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900 Hectares of Forest Were Consumed By A Fire In Veraguas

Environmental IssuesA total of 900 hectares of forest: 650 pine (Pinus caribaea), 250 of stubble and grassland (grasses), was the effect caused by the fire in the Forest Reserve La Yeguada, in the province of Veraguas, according to a report issued by the National Environmental Authority.

Jeremías Aguilar, regional administrator of ANAM in Veraguas, announced that this was one of the largest fires which has occurred in the forest reserve and this has left La Yeguada whit unfortunate results for the environment within the region.

This fire, which lasted three days, was controlled with the help of ANAM officials, park rangers, firefighters, police force, naval air service and the community, which worked hard to fight the fire and put it out.

Aguilar claims that help has always been provided in these situations. He said that people have a lot of training in the region, but as a result of what happened, the area is going to have more surveillance.

The official explained that awareness is very important to people. From now on they will put up signs saying "do not smoke" in order to avoid accidents that trigger wildfires since they leave serious consequences to the environment. (Estrella)

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Toxic Level of Smoke Has Decreased

Environmental IssuesMinister of Health Javier Díaz said today that the levels of toxic smoke that are coming from the landfill fire at Cerro Patacón have diminished.

Díaz explained that the number of toxic particles in the environment are within levels which are "near-normal."

He said that officials have been monitoring the smoke since the fire began Tuesday. Due to the decrease in toxic particles, there will be no evacuations of the area around the landfill.

"The 41 health institutions have not recommended evacuations. This has been done in a transparent manner and the recommendations that should be followed are those that have already been given," the minister said.

However, Díaz suggested that schools near the area that have resumed classes should send students home if smoke is still detected.

Waste agency AAUD will provide an update at noon today on the status of the fire. (Prensa)

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700 Hectare Forest Fire Under Control in Veraguas

Environmental IssuesThe National Environmental Authority (ANAM) in the province of Veraguas, said yesterday afternoon that the wildfire that began last Saturday at the Reserva Natural La Yeguada has been fully controlled.

Geremias Aguilar, Regional Administrator of ANAM in Veraguas, announced that approximately 700 acres of pines were destroyed by the fire which was brought under control thanks to the rangers, firement, and the Naval Air Service, together with community residents who worked as a team.

According to the official of the ANAM, assessments were initiated to define how many total acres of pines were destroyed and also to investigate the causes of the forest fire. (Estrella)

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Fighting Illegal Fishing Within The Boundaries of Coiba Island National Park

Environmental IssuesThe MarViva Foundation of Panama will support institutions like the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), the National Ecological Police, and other environmental organizations to eradicate the constant illegal fishing within the boundaries of the Coiba Island National Park.

Zuleyka Pinzón, national director of the foundation, said in Veraguas they are working to prevent fishermen, of whatever class, from continuing with these types of harmful activities within a mile off the coast of the Coiba park. (Dia a Dia)

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Ancon Residents Trying To Halt Construction of Parking Garage At The Supreme Court

Environmental IssuesYesterday, January 17, the Federation of Reverted Communities of Ancon filed a motion to vacate before the Third Section of Litigation of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ).

The legal procedure asks the Supreme Court to nullify the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) 1-A415-2010 dated 9 July 2010, which approves the plans and specifications for the construction of a parking garage for visitors at the Palace of Justice.

The federation also called for the cancellation of a resolution issued by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) that granted, free of charge, the land to carry out the project.

The building which will have five floors, was awarded to the company Constructora Corcione & Asociados at a cost of 6.9 million dollars.

Since the announcement of this project, there has been a discussion for more than five months between the authorities of the courthouse, who argue that the construction of a parking garage is necessary because there are not enough parking for people who come to the Court on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, the residents of Ancon say the project entails considerable damage to the environment.

Donaldo Sousa, environmental lawyer and legal representative of the residents of the area, explained that what is sought is the immediate cancellation of the environmental impact study and the free granting of land by the MEF, given for the construction of a five story parking garage.

Ready To Start Work - Through a press release, the company Constructora Corcione & Asociados informed El Siglo that they have had all of the necessary paperwork and permits to start work on the project, since July 2012.

Therefore, they must comply with the terms of the concession contract and the proposed time allowed.

However, according to the note, they have not set a date for the commencement of work, because first they want to ensure the safety of workers.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and the National Environmental Authority have not issued a statement regarding the case. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: The land where this parking garage will be built is already a parking lot. The lawyer for the residents of Ancon presented this request to the Supreme Court, and the parking lot is being built for - and at the request of - the Supreme Court. This is the epitome of tilting at windmills. It's not an environmental issue.

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The Fight Over Supreme Court Parking Garage Project Continues

Environmental IssuesThe struggle that came to light last July, to prevent the cutting of about 34 trees due to the construction of a building of 356 parking spaces for the Supreme Court of Justice, is back on the mat.

This, after last week it became known that the Supreme Court judges Alejandro Moncada Luna and Harry Diaz voted to continue the project to build the parking garage at a cost of $6.9 million which was granted to the company Corcione & Associates.

From Friday, December 13, members of the Federation of Reverted Communities have been maintaining a "permanent vigil" at the site, in order to keep the trees from being cut down, which includes Royal Palms, a species protected by the National Environmental Authority.

"We do not know when the machinery will arrive to cut down the trees, so we will remain on watch all night, especially in the early morning," said the residents.

Similarly, they publicly requested that the president of the Supreme Court, Moncada Luna, be removed from the decision process.

They think that the full body of the Supreme Court should be the one to decide the issue, not the Chamber of General Business, the department responsible for the project, after the vote.

Sandra Tapia, one of the spokespersons of the community, argues that Moncada Luna cannot be both judge and jury on the same case.

Tapia reported that to date they have not received a formal notice from the Supreme Court, and likewise they do not know if their suggestions were taken into account about the possibility of building the parking garage in another area, which would not affect the wildlife on Ancon Hill.

"Without Notice" - Despite complaints and the measures of force adopted by the residents of Ancon to prevent the felling of trees, it was learned that the company Corcione & Associates has not been notified to start building the project.

Changes have been made - According to Rubén Elías Rodríguez Ávila, the former President of the National Bar Association, the project has undergone changes in general, but it is important that the authorities (judges) open the compass to discuss and consider the proposals made by the residents. Due to the controversy, El Siglo tried to obtain the version of officials of the Supreme Court, but at press time there was no response. (Siglo)

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A Company Was Excavating Near The Road That Collapsed

Environmental Issues The name of the company Agroforestal Quebrada Ancha had already appeared in the offices of the Ministry of Public Works, the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), the Governor's Office of the Province of Colon, and even the Public Ministry. But this gained momentum last week after 200 meters of the Boyd-Roosevelt highway - also known as Transístmica - collapsed, at the Curva del Cebo in Quebrada Ancha, province of Colon.

The company Agroforestal Quebrada Ancha is now in the sights of several entities, because they have been linked to the collapsed of that section of roadway, in which two Red Cross rescue workers were killed. ANAM, the MOP, and the Governor's Office of Colon reported that the company felled more than 70 trees, made excavations, and covered a spring precisely at the Curva del Cebo location, without having the required permits for this work.

Silvano Vergara, Anam administrator, said the company Agroforestal filed an environmental impact statement earlier this year to develop agroforestry activities in the area. That is to say, work related to planting trees. However, they noticed during inspections that at the site the company was indiscriminately deforesting more than 70 trees, conducting extractions of stone and earth, and they had closed or covered over a spring. Therefore, they issued a suspension order against the company. "We issued a first suspension order which they ignored. They second they also ignored, so we decided to go to the Public Ministry. They only stopped working when the Environmental Prosecutor became involved," said Vergara.

ANAM filed a complaint against that company for environmental crimes with the First Prosecutor of Colon, on 24 March this year. So far the status of that case is unknown. Right now ANAM is making an economic evaluation of the environmental damage caused by the company Agroforestal at the Curva del Cebo in order to apply a fine. The fine could range from $10,000 to $1 million. "I hope this fine will serve as an example in the criminal sphere, insofar as with what happens, they will pay more attention to environmental issues. Entrepreneurs will think twice before they try to damage the environment," the official concluded.

But there are signs that the company continued with its extraction work in the zone. It was the Minister of Public Works Jaime Ford who noticed it during the recent floods in Colon. "In June we received a note from one of our contractors, in which they reported to us that the company was conducting excavations, which could have contributed to the failure of the road," he said at the time. Ford said the Inspectorate of the MOP made a field visit, and they realized the situation, so he proceeded to suspend the work. Furthermore, the Legal Directorate of the entity is collecting data to proceed administratively against the company Agroforestal, whose promoter is the businessman Guojie Huang.

The Governor Will File A Complaint - In the province of Colón and there are moves to denounce the company in both civil and criminal cases. The governor of the province, Pedro Rios, announced that he would. "That company deforested everything. They did not meet the requirements of institutions such as the Ministry of Public Works and the National Environmental Authority," said the governor. Rios said he would file complaints in both areas, for not meeting established standards. "They were looking for a field of stones that they never found, and just by going to the area you can see what they were doing. That's why we will sue them," concluded Rivers, adding that the complaint will be filed this week.

Meanwhile, the environmentalist Raisa Banfield says that all those soils in Quebrada Ancha hold a lot of water, so it is essential that the forests are maintained to hold the ground, otherwise there will be erosion. "If the company already had a history of committing irregularities, the work should have been stopped anyway, and immediately they should have been sued to demand compensation for the trees and the environmental damages," she said. The activist did not doubt that the removal of soil and deforestation done by the company Agroforestal influenced in one way or another in the erosion.

They Are Looking For A Scape Goat - The legal representative of the company Agroforestal in the administrative process filed by ANAM, Aldo Saenz, said that what is really wanted is a culprit in this case. "I came pretty late to handle this case, but we showed that we are available to deal with this matter with the ANAM," said the lawyer. According to Saenz, all projects will have some degree of an environmental impact, and they requested an inspection by the Anam to agree how much was the damage. However, he noted that to date they have not received the balance. "We have made ourselves available to the MOP technicians to check if there is a direct relationship between the sinking of the roadway and the work done by the company. There is no need to look ahead to look for someone to blame. What to look for now are the causes that led to the disaster, and we are cooperating with that," he added.

Prosecutor Investigating Deaths - The Auxiliary Prosecutor of the Republic began an investigation after the deaths of the two Red Cross rescuers were buried by a landslide Sunday afternoon November 25 at the Curva del Cebo in Quebrada Ancha, Colon. Sources of the institution reported that the investigation began last week, after the recovery of the bodies of the rescuers, on Thursday 29 November.

The rescuers Jorge Aleman, 54, and Fernando Johnson, 43, with over 20 years experience in the Red Cross, were assessing the damage caused by the rains when a stretch of the Boyd-Roosevelt highway gave way, and buried their vehicle in a ravine under more than 20 feet of mud and rocks. (Prensa)

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ANAM Seized Illegal Cocobolo Logs At Port

Environmental IssuesThe National Environmental Authority (ANAM) reported this afternoon that two containers full of wood of the species known as cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) were discovered and detained in the port of Manzanillo, Colon.

According to Anam, the containers were inspected by technicians from the Forest Department and because they did not carry documentation, such as the guides for ground transportation and for the exportation of timber, they were retained and an investigation was started.

Last Monday they coordinated with the Directorate of Customs Control to verify (inspect) both containers, and confirmed that its content corresponds to the wood species commonly known as cocobolo. Both containers were 40 feet long, and were entirely filled with logs.

The regional administrator of the ANAM in Colon, Noris K Toribio, said they have maintained close coordination with Customs in the province, so that the containers with wood arriving at different ports are reviewed rby Anam to verify that they have the documentation to be issued for the export and transportation of wood according to these permits, in kind, volume and shape.

Currently the Anam has initiated the necessary investigations against those involved in the acquisition, transportation and marketing of this wood, and ordered the retention of both containers.

The cocobolo is an endangered species so its logging is regulated by law and its sale is prohibited. (Prensa)

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7,000 Turtles Laying Eggs On Beach in Tonosí

Environmental IssuesPlaya La Marinera, Los Santos. - At least 7,000 turtles have come to the Playa La Marinera in the district of Tonosí to spawn, in the province of Los Santos. This group of turtles that came to the area of Tonosí is considered the fourth arrival of this year. This was revealed by a report of the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP), which states that during the 7th, 8th and 9th of October at the Playa La Marinera, 7,000 turtles have come to lay their eggs.

According to the director of the Arap in Los Santos, Edison Cedeño, this is the fourth arrival of the species of sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), in an area that has been declared as a reserve. So far this year more than 40,000 turtles have laid their eggs in this area.

Cedeño said the area is fully protected 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by ARAP inspectors based in Los Santos. He said entry to the area is only allowed after authorization by ARAP officials, or by the Direction of Research and Development.

The extraction of turtle eggs is prohibited in this zone, and people entering the area with these intentions are arrested and taken to the Tonosí police station.

Surveillance in the area has been provided for the past nine years by the office of Marine Resources of the Panama Maritime Authority, and later with the creation of the ARAP by personnel of this institution, the National Police, the Ecological Police and National Air Service. (Prensa)

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Ancon Tree Huggers On Alert Over Parking Garage

Environmental Issues The Federation the Reverted Areas, comprising residents of Ancon, remains vigilant to the possible construction of a parking garage next to the Supreme Court of Justice. According to a statement released by the inhabitants, it was learned that yesterday, Thursday, 4 October 2012, electricians went to the Supreme Court, who, by order of Judge Harry Diaz, were looking for the power lines, because it is another company that will do the work of installing the lights necessary for the construction of the parking garage building. In July 2012 residents of the area blocked the start of construction, saying they would not allow the felling of 40 trees in the area. The presence of electricians on the land where they intend to build a five story parking garage prompted the residents to consider new demonstrations against the plan. This group presented several alternatives to keep the trees from being felled. There was no answer. (Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Screw those particular 40 trees. The environmentalists should be happy with this plan, because the company that builds the parking garage will probably be required to plant like 1,000 trees somewhere else, to make up for the 40 they are going to have to knock down to build the building. Have you ever been to the Supreme Court building? I have, dozens of times. There's no place to park. Once again last week when I was there to testify in the trial of Daniel Moreno, I had to park in a "Jeep" spot that no normal sedan could use. So, while I'm as green as the next guy, these rabid environmentalists need to unwrap themselves from these particular 40 plants - and go stroke the 1,000 new ones - that will be growing somewhere else. It becomes emotional for these idiots and the logic melts away. And of course they drive to their protests in SUV's and commit all sorts of other acts which expose them as hypocrites. Whatever. It's possible to do both things - protect the planet, be kind to the environment, while simultaneously giving humans a place to live and work. And park.

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This Is Perfection. Do Not Miss This Video. Follow The Frog...

Environmental Issues By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - "The Rainforest Alliance uses the power of markets to arrest the major drivers of deforestation and environmental destruction: timber extraction, agricultural expansion, cattle ranching and tourism. We work to ensure millions of acres of working forests, farms, ranchlands and hotel properties are managed according to rigorous sustainability standards. And by linking those businesses to conscientious consumers, who identify their goods and services through the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal and Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark, we demonstrate that sustainable practices can help businesses thrive in the modern economy."

Editor's Comment: Yup. Sustainable. This video is perfect. It is possible for all of us to live our lives while simultaneously doing things to strengthening the planet's lungs. Like FSC certified plantation teak in Panama, for example. Follow the frog...

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Having A Cow - Right On Cue - About Cutting Down A Tree

Environmental IssuesA group of environmentalists and people who defend nature denounced the indiscriminate felling of trees as part of a commercial development project being built next to the Centennial highway, that affects the Camino de Cruces National Park. Raisa Banfiel, a civil society leader and environmentalist, said the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) ordered the suspension of work, however, they company as surprisingly resumed work on the project. She said the company responsible for the project does not have an updated environmental impact study, and they do not have the permits in the field to fell trees. The environmentalist requested the presence of the Anam and authorities to investigate this case, and to cite the company in charge of the work. The plaintiffs are preparing to hold a protest near where the work is taking place. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Did you know that for every tree a developer cuts down in Panama, they have to plant 10 more somewhere else? If these "environmentalists" were authentic and true, and if they genuinely cared about the environment, then they would be applauding this type of development. The developers then go out and buy many hectares of deforested cattle land, and plant new trees, ten to one. And this is not plantation teak for lumber or anything like that - they have to plant a proper mix of naturally occurring species of trees and plants, and really reclaim areas that had been cleared for cattle, and turn it back into forest. But whatever, the only thing they know how to do is make noise and protest. Don't confuse them with the facts, they're too busy being an activist to really care about the environment. Now, let's all hop into our SUV's to drive up there to protest! Yippie! Maybe I can get on TV again! Yeesh...

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Frog native to Lake Hula, once believed extinct, is placed on endangered list instead

Environmental IssuesBy Zafrir Rinat - A rare frog that was once classified as being extinct has gotten a lifeline of sorts: It is now on a list of 100 animals, plants and fungi threatened with extinction.

Scientists had believed the Hula painted frog became extinct after the Hula Lake was drained in the 1950s, which caused a myriad of environmental ills. But they revised that classification after a ranger who worked for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority found a female specimen of the frog in the Hula Valley last November.

Still, scientists have doubts whether enough members of the Hula painted frog remain to ward off its extinction.

Also on the list, entitled "Priceless or Worthless," were: Tarzan's chameleon, the spoon-billed sandpiper and the Pygmy three-toed sloth. The list, released yesterday, was compiled by some 8,000 environmentalists and scientists from international organizations. They worked together under the aegis of the Zoological Society of London and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The purpose of the list is to prompt public discussion about the importance of preserving these endangered species. "The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a 'what can nature do for us' approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritized according to the services they provide for people," said Prof. Jonathan Baillie, the zoological society's director of conservation.

"This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?"

The list of 100 endangered species covers 48 countries, and includes species of plants, animals and fungi of which only several dozen, or sometimes fewer, members remain in nature. One highly-threatened animal is the Pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), whose sole habitat is Escudo Island, ten miles off the coast of Panama. This type of sloth is about half the size of its mainland cousins, and is the smallest and slowest type of sloth in the world. It is classified as "critically endangered," partly as a result of the work of fisherman in the area.

The report also mentions the so-called Asian unicorn, or the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis ), one of the most threatened mammals in southeast Asia. There may be only a few dozen of these antelopes left in the world today.

"All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back," said Ellen Butcher of the Zoological Society of London, coauthor of the report. "However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist."

"If we believe these species are priceless it is time for the conservation community, government and industry to step up to the plate and show future generations that we value all life," added Professor Baillie.

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Will tourists scare away Bocas’ dolphins?

Environmental IssuesOne by one, boats carrying tourists break the silence in the mangrove-surrounded Dolphin Bay in Panama’s Bocas del Toro province. Some gently coast in; others roar full throttle to the spots where the bottlenose dolphins jump from the water.

As the boats come and go, Shakira Quinones hunches over a laptop, intently grips her headphones and listens to the dolphin chatter increase. “It’s like being in a nightclub,” the University of Puerto Rico graduate student says of the effect of underwater boat noise. “You try calling the attention of a friend on the other side but the person doesn’t hear you. You have to repeat yourself.”

Part of a team studying the bottlenose dolphins of Bocas del Toro, Shakira is working to understand the impact tourism is having on dolphins. At first glance, it might not seem that dolphins are at risk. Famously curious and sociable, bottlenose dolphins often appear as enthusiastic about showing off as the tourists are to watch them. Playful juveniles will sometimes swim behind circling boats and breach along the bow waves as onlookers cheer.

But boat noise “can potentially act like any other pollutant in rendering habitats unsuitable for dolphins,” says Laura May-Collado, a George Mason University professor who has led research on dolphins at Bocas since 2004. Building on that research, Shakira, who is focusing on dolphin groups with calves, hopes to determine how interactions with dolphin-watching boats affect the communication and behavior of bottlenose dolphins.

Isolated population? - During one low-season day, the research team documented 37 boats during a two-hour span, pointing to an uptick in the number of dolphin watchers. Visitors are virtually guaranteed to see dolphins on any trip to Dolphin Bay but that might be changing. “The dolphins used to be easier to find,” says Dalia Barragan, a graduate student at Colombia’s Universidad de los Andes. “They weren’t so evasive.”

Using a specially outfitted rifle, Dalia has taken skin samples from Bocas dolphins to determine the population’s genetic makeup. The goal is to determine if transient dolphins mix with the Bocas population and contribute to local reproduction. “If that turns out not to be the case, then a very strong management plan will need to be put into place or the dolphins could be finished,” she says.

Editor's Comment: To read more about the work being done by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, visit their website at http://www.stri.si.edu/index.php. I just spent a few days in Bocas a couple of weeks ago, and while there we considered taking this tour to Dolphin Bay. Before going, we asked another couple who had gone the day before it it was worth the trip. They said no, because there was only about five dolphins there, and "it wasn't dolphin watching, it was dolphin chasing." They said the boat operators would aggressively drive around to try to get the best view for "their" customers, who had paid a lot of money to see a friggin' dolphin. They got too close to the dolphins, there was no oversight or regulation, and basically they said it was not a good situation overall. So, we skipped it. I'm glad we did. Yesterday we went on a whale watching trip to Contadora and we saw literally hundreds of dolphins, we were the only boat there, and we were not chasing them, they were chasing us. We left that area convinced we had zero negative impact on the dolphins. Maybe they could institute some sort of controls or limits in Bocas del Toro to protect both the tourism industry and the dolphins themselves. Like maybe a reservation system with a limited number of spots in the boats. Or maybe bigger boats with more butts per boat. Or maybe clearly defined windows of operation? I don't know, I'm sure there are experts on this sort of stuff...

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That Sinking Feeling

Environmental IssuesBy David Dudenhoefer - For centuries, the Guna (a.k.a. Kuna) Indians have successfully defended their territory on Panama’s Caribbean coast. They allied themselves with French pirates to fend off the Spaniards during the colonial era, and revolted against Panamanian authorities in 1925 to demand the autonomy that they now enjoy. Today, they face an unprecedented threat as seasonal waves and rising seas resulting from climate change slowly consume the islands out from under them.

More than 30,000 Guna live just a few feet above sea level, in crowded villages on 41 small islands, which makes them especially vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change. Their autonomous territory, the Comarca Guna Yala, stretches for 232 miles along Panama’s northeast coast, comprising all 365 San Blas Islands, coastal lowlands and a densely forested mountain range that has kept them relatively isolated.

Originally a rainforest people, they moved onto the islands generations ago to escape the insects and diseases of the coastal jungle. They have since become exemplary seafarers, travelling between their islands, fishing grounds and coastal farms in dugout canoes powered by lateen sails or outboard motors. They fish for food and income, shipping lobster and other commercial species to Panama City. They also grow coconuts on the uninhabited islands and coastal lowlands, which they sell to the Colombian traders who ply their territorial waters in large boats. (Click Here to read the full article)

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Company in La Chorrera Fined $10,000 Over Toxic Smoke

Environmental IssuesThe Maribel company located in La Chorrera was fined $10,000 dollars by the National Environmental Authority because of the pollution caused in some neighborhoods surrounding the company. The ANAM demanded that the company use a smoke extractor on their chimneys, and they have to build a taller chimney out of concrete. This is because in recent months, hundreds of residents filed complaints about the presence of toxic smoke in the street, making it difficult to see and affecting the breathing of people transiting there. The owner of the company has already been notified and he has five days to file for reconsideration. (Dia a Dia)

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Judge rejects amending Savannah dredging suit

Environmental IssuesBy BRUCE SMITH - Associated Press - CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that both the Georgia Ports Authority and South Carolina's Savannah River Maritime Commission may take part in a lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the river shipping channel. However, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel denied a motion by environmental groups seeking to expand the lawsuit to address with what South Carolina environmental laws should pertain to the project. So the case will center on the original complaint that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before proceeding. The denial of the environmental groups' motion was without prejudice, meaning it could be raised again at a later time.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation. Both the Georgia Ports Authority and the Maritime Commission later moved to intervene in the suit, the Ports Authority on the side of the corps, the Maritime Commission on the side of the plaintiffs.

Supporters of the deepening project say it is needed so the river can handle the larger container ships that will be calling at Atlantic ports when the Panama Canal is expanded in 2014. Environmental groups in both South Carolina and Georgia originally sued, saying the deepening work needs a permit because toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped on the South Carolina side of the river.

The plaintiffs wanted to expand the suit, noting the corps has said repeatedly it can proceed without South Carolina approval under exemptions in the Clean Water Act.

The plaintiffs said both the Department of Health and Environmental Control and Gov. Nikki Haley cited the corps' position as part of the rationale for giving state approval to the project. Their filing quoted Haley speaking last fall at the Charleston Propeller Club.

"I have in writing, your DHEC board had in writing, a letter from the Corps of Engineers saying we don't need a permit from DHEC to give Georgia their dredging," Haley was quoted as saying. "It's not that they didn't need it. They were gonna do it anyway."

Both the corps and the Georgia Ports Authority opposed amending the suit, noting in court filings late Monday that it was premature and no final decision has been made on whether the exemptions will be used.

Editor's Comment: All of the local ports on the East Coast, from Texas to Boston, are preparing for the possibilities of new business and opportunities created by the expansion of the Panama Canal, which has been called a "game changer." The federal government has stepped in to provide some funding for dredging and the expansion of port facilities, but the down side is that there are many ports vying for and competing for those funds. In this case, there are environmental concerns. So, the expansion of the Panama Canal creates a conflict over toxic river sludge from the bottom of the Savannah river between South Carolina and Georgia...

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Ancon Area Residents Still Trying To Protect Trees At Supreme Court Building

Environmental IssuesAida Torres, coordinator of the Reverted Area Federation expressed concern at the insistence of the Supreme Court to fell 40 trees and 10 royal palm trees to build a parking garage. "It's unfortunate the President of the National Assembly Sergio Galvez now says the opposition to the project has a political aspect," she said. She said a group of residents went to the National Assembly and they asked Galvez to speak to the President of the Supreme Court, Alejandro Moncada Luna, and before the full membership of the National Assembly he promised to discuss the plan and he promised to support the residents, so they were surprised by this change in his position. They added while speaking to RPC Radio that on many occasions they have called Deputy Sergio Galvez and he has not come, but others have attended to their requests. In 2009 the President of the Supreme Court (at that time) Harley Mitchell suggested this project, however it was suspended due to the discontent of area residents. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Make the builder plant 10 trees somewhere else for every one they cut down. There - isn't that a great thing for the environment? It's a shame to see how the "environmentalists" are against something that would actually be a net improvement for the environment. Cut down 50 trees, plant 500. What's not to like? Well, in reality these guys are politically motivated, and they are "against" everything. There's simply not enough parking at the Supreme Court building, everyone knows that. You have to break a few eggs to make a cake...

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