Posted by: JohnnyRook | July 17, 2008

EcoNoticiario #6: Spaniards Can Drink Freely While Chileans Must Drive Less

The current edition of Econoticiario brings you stories from Spain (the end of the Catalan drought?), Mexico (a slideshow of a glacier crumbling in Patagonia), Costa Rica (results of a new study on the migratory habits of leatherback turtles), Colombia (Costa Rica announces carbon offset program for air travelers), and Chile (tightening of rules in Santiago on who can drive on “pre-emergency” days)

Your Spanish words of the week:

tar sands–arenas alquitranadas

energía mareomotriz–wave power/energy

energía solar–solar power/energy

energía eólica–wind power/energy

energía geotérmica–geothermal power/energy


Catalan Reservoirs at 70% After Recent Rainfall, the Highest Level Since 2007.

The Catalan drought is over for now at least. The ships contracted to carry water to Barcelona were called off in June, and there is enough water in the reservoirs to supply the region until the El Prat desalination plant comes on line in June 2009. However this plant will only provide 60 hectometers of the 365 hectometers required for human consumption annually in the Barcelona area. Eventually, there will be desalination plants, but the most optimistic predictions do not them all coming on line before 2011.

For background on this story see my earlier posts at Daily Kos:

Spanish Water Crisis About to Become a War?

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly… Nowhere (Econoticiario Special Edition)

From scarcity to record levels in three months: only the highest part of the belltower of Sau, the marker that indicates the status of the water supply in the interior of Catalonia sticks out above the water. Last weekend’s rains have were the final assault against the drought: yesterday, supplies in the Ter-Llobregat system, which supplies 5.4 million inhabitants of the Barcelona area reached 69.7% of capacity.

There is enough water to guarantee consumption until fall, 2009.

The state of emergency, according to internal documents of the Catalan Water Agency (ACA) will be kept in place until the end of the year in order to appraise the situation in December, when the heavy rains of May will be long over. Such caution is justified by the historical record: in summer 2006, the water stored in the Ter-Llobregat system was over 72%. This volume, slightly higher to the current level, was succeeded by the worst drought in 70 years. Rainfall, which according to international meteorologic systems is predicted to be scarce, will determine if the process is repeated in the future.

El País, Madrid July 16, 2008


Glacier Breaks Up in Patagonia

El Universal has a short slideshow with some great photos of the collapse of the tongue of the Perito Moreno glacier in Patagonia. (The slideshow contains images of earlier collapses plus the most recent on July 9th.) Although the text (hold your cursor over the images if you read Spanish) says that “experts say the breakup is unrelated to global warming, this is the first time that the glacier tongue has collapsed in the winter since 1917. Coinciding as it does with the continued collapse of the Wilkins ice shelf this (southern hemisphere) winter, I have my doubts about whether that is truly the case. To see the slideshow follow this link. (This works best if you open it in the same window or a new window. If you open it in a new tab you have to click the forward arrow to get to the slide show.) You can also watch a short video here.

El Universal, Mexico City July 16, 2008

Costa Rica

Leatherback Turtles begin 7,000 kilometer migration at Guanacaste.

The enormous leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that nest on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica may repeat a 7,000 kilometer (3,500 going and 3,500 on the way back)crossing every three or four years in order to reproduce in the same place where they were born.

This according to a study published this week by Costa Rican, American and French scientists in the journal PLoS Biology.

Leatherback Turtle

“This 14-year study is vital for conservation because if confirms the existence of a natural marine corridor between Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands and shows how the leatherbacks move around the country’s north Pacific,” Rotney Piedra, the Chief Ranger of Baulas (leatherback) Park and one of the authors of the study, told La Nación.

The study calls on Central and South American nations from Costa Rica to Ecuador to improve their regulations in order to protect the turtles on land and in inland waters. The investigators also learned that the leatherbacks can dive to a depth of 900 meters while maintaining their own body temperatures at 18 degrees above the temperature of the ocean even in cold waters.

New questions also emerged from the research:

It is still not clear why the leatherback’s return routes from the Galapagos branch out in every direction. One could almost say that each turtle goes his own way as he sees fit, as they do not follow any pattern in their movements, going instead wherever the can find cooler waters which contain more food.

Piedra indicated that the desire to avoid large predators and fishing boats could be affecting where each turtle goes.

The turtles’ migratory route has been confirmed with satellite information, which is of vital importance in protecting them.

Nevertheless, in the last 20 years, the leatherback population has dropped by 90% and consequently, they are considered a species that will need help in order to survive.

La Nación, San José July 16, 2008


Tourists Visiting Costa Rica Will Be Able to Offset the Carbon Dioxide Emitted During Their Flight

Government officials today launched the “Clean Journey” program so that each traveler entering or leaving the country voluntarily pays five dollars [apparently even the CO2 is cheaper in Latin America–JR] for every ton of CO@ that they emit during their trip.

Roberto Dobles, the Minister of the Environment and Energy explained at a press conference that the revenues taken in will be used to support the financing of the Payment for Environmental Services (PSA) system that guarantees the protection of private properties committed to the conservation and protection of the Central American country’s forests.

Both foreign tourists and Costa Ricans can participate in the project by logging on to the web page of the National Fund for Forest Financing (Fonafifo),, each time they are going to take a trip.

On this page they will be able to detail the their starting point and their destination. The system will then calculate the tons of CO2 that will be emitted in route and inform the of the sum that they should pay to offset those emissions.

For example, says Jorge Rodrïguez, the Executive Director of Fonafifo, “a tourist who comes on a direct flight from Germany emits 60 tons of CO2 for which he should pay 30 dollars.

As a footnote: The Office of the Presidency has announced that all government employees are to pay the fee out of their own pockets.

El Tiempo, Bogotá July 16, 2008


Confrontation between Mayor and Ministry Regional Secretary [The Ministry Regional Secretary or Seremi is the regional representative of his respective national ministry.]

Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city, is attempting to reduce its very high levels of air pollution under the Plan for Air-Quality Protection and Decontamination (PPDA). One of the measures being employed is to restrict automobile traffic in the city. A license plate system is in effect which keeps light vehicles (cars, pickups and motorcycles)without catalytic converters from entering the city on certain days of the week depending on the final number of the vehicle’s license plate. This year the restrictions are as follows:

Monday: vehicles with license plates ending in the following digits are not allowed on the roads: 1, 2, 3 y 4
Tuesday: 5, 6, 7, 8
Wednesday: 9, 0, 1, 2
Thursday: 3, 4, 5, 6
Friday: 7, 8, 9, 0

This is for vehicles without catalytic converters. The same rules apply to vehicles with catalytic converters on “pre-emergency” days except that only 2 digits are restricted per day. On days when there an “environmental emergency” is declared, 8 digits of cars without catalytic converters are banned from the roads as well as 4 digits of cars with catalytic converters.

In 2009, the rules are going to be tightened if the mayor of Santiago has his way.

Santiago, Chile

The Intendent of the Metropolitan Region, which includes Santiago, Álvaro Erazo, announced yesterday that restrictions on vehicles with catalytic converters will be increased from 2 to 4 digits on pre-emergency days in 2009, a decision on which agreement had already been reached, he declared. This was immediately denied by the Transportion Ministry Regional Secretary, Pablo Rodríguez

[The tighter restrictions] were to have been implemented this year, but the Transportation Ministry rejected the measure at the last moment, thus imposing restrictions on only two digits [per day].

“This will be the last year in which 4 digit restrictions will not be applied to vehicles with catalytic converters. This decision was made by the mayor’s office and each of the services that are involved here,” Erazo said.

The Transportation Ministry is arguing that [banning] 4 digits worth of vehicles with catalytic converters–some 300 thousand vehicles–runs the risk of overwhelming the subway and the Transantiago bus system, which is why a decree applicable to only 2 digits worth of vehicles, that is to say, 150 thousand vehicles was enacted, for fall and winter 2008.

The PPDA includes a program for taking 350 thousand vehicles without catalytic converters off the road using the Environmental Impact Evaluation System (SEIA) in which to which companies participating in the system will buy the automobiles, which they will then scrap so that they no longer pollute.

The incentives for this still need to be worked out with the Treasury Ministry.

Restrictions on wood-burning stoves are also going to be strengthened.

As for firewood, Mayor Erazo declared that winter 2010 will be the last year in which existing wood-burning stoves and heaters will be able to be used as they are currently, that is, without emissions certification.

“Starting the first of March of next year all new heaters sold in Santiago must have have a label with information for the consumer about their level of emissions,” he said.

El Mercurio, Santiago July 16, 2008

[All translations by JR]

Crossposted at Daily Kos


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