Around the Region

El Paso discharges point up border infrastructure needs

Spills that send wastewater from Mexico into California and Arizona have been a border irritant for years. But since late August, concern has focused on major discharges in the opposite direction. That’s because on a daily basis, the United States has been diverting millions of gallons of untreated sewage from El Paso, Texas, into the Rio Grande, which is shared by the United States and Mexico and is subject to a 1944 treaty that addresses sanitation issues. El Paso Water, a publicly owned utility, began the discharges in August after two parallel sewer mains ruptured, sending untreated sewage onto residential land in the city’s upper valley area, near the community of Sunland Park, New Mexico. By mid-September the utility had successfully repaired one of the mains, but was still discharging sewage into the Rio Grande as work on the other continued. “We know there will be impacts to the...

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Leguminous ‘refugee’ planted at Norway’s embassy in Brazil

The Norwegian embassy in Brasília has taken in an unconventional refugee—a six-meter (20-foot) jatobá tree. Indigenous and environmental activists presented the embassy with the jatobá—which belongs to Hymenaea courbaril, a heavily logged Amazon hardwood species—and requested refugee status for it to highlight the problem of rainforest destruction in Brazil. In a not-so-subtle reference to the role of right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s regressive environmental policies in that destruction, the tree was replanted on the embassy grounds on Sept. 21, the same day Bolsonaro spoke before the U.N. General Assembly. The jatobá, a leguminous species often called Brazilian cherry due to its burgundy-colored wood, arrived at the embassy on Sept. 20 after being transported from the eastern Amazon state of Pará by boat, train and, finally, pickup truck. The Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Liaison (APIB), the country’s leading indigenous association, and GT Infrastructure...

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Yet again, Latin America leads in murders of rights defenders

Latin Americans accounted for 73% of activists murdered worldwide defending environmental and land rights in 2020, according to “Last Line of Defence,” a report published on Sept. 13 by Global Witness, a London-based nonprofit. The region registered 165 of the 227 such murders globally, an 11.5% increase from 2019 and the highest number recorded in Latin America since Global Witness began reporting on the killings of environmental and land-rights defenders in 2012. Over one-third of the global attacks in 2020 were linked to natural-resources conflicts. In Latin America, deaths of environmental and land-rights rights defenders stemmed from clashes with loggers in 23 cases; with miners in 17 cases; and with large-scale ranchers and farmers in 17 cases. In an additional 20 cases, defenders were killed in disputes over water rights. Colombia topped the list, with 29% of recorded murders of defenders in 2020. Of...

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