Around the Region

Website provides hi-tech window on deforestation

A new website offering unprecedented high-resolution snapshots of deforestation on a monthly and even semimonthly basis around the world promises to transform forest management, according to experts. The new online system, launched Feb. 20 in Washington, D.C. and known as Global Forest Watch (GFW), uses the cloud computing power of the Google Earth Engine and new algorithms developed at the University of Maryland to analyze hundreds of thousands of NASA satellite images of forest cover in a matter of hours. Available to the public for free, the website will empower governments, environmental organizations, businesses and indigenous rights activists to pinpoint where deforestation is occurring and take action before threatened ecosystems are lost, the experts say. It is a revolutionary system according to Duncan Pollard, an associate vice president at Nestlé. Nestlé and several other multinationals have pledged to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains of such basic commodities as...

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French Guiana, Brazil joining forces against illegal mining

Experts say Brazil’s ratification in December of a 2008 treaty with France aimed at combating illegal gold mining on the border between Brazil and French Guiana is expected to help the two countries address the environmentally destructive problem jointly. In 2008, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva and French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed the treaty, ratified by the French Parliament in 2011. Brazil’s Congress ratified the treaty on Dec. 12. The agreement calls for a coordinated, bilateral crackdown on illegal gold mining within 150 kilometers (90 miles) of the border between the Brazil and French Guiana, an overseas department of France. Legislation in both Brazil and French Guiana earmarks the border region for special protection, but the status has done little to curb the destruction done by illegal miners. In Brazil, the protected border area includes two national parks, one national forest and one state forest, all in northern...

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Report says quality of cleanup regimens improving in region

Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru are among the Latin American countries that have issued regulations in recent years aimed at identifying and cleaning up polluted sites, according to a report by the Blacksmith Institute, the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution. Effective measures include clear guidelines for identifying polluted sites, standards for cleanup, incentives for remediation and guidelines for dealing with abandoned sites, according to the report. Regulatory progress varies from country to country, because some countries have had laws on the books for a longer time and have better-established regulatory agencies, attorney Jeffrey Gracer, one of the coordinators of the report, said in a teleconference with reporters on Nov. 20, when the report was released. “In other countries, the laws are more recent, but the general progression is positive, not only in terms of the law but in terms...

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