Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Desertification of Regions of Guatemala Causes Worry

Concern is increasing over the growth of semiarid regions of Guatemala. These regions now extend to Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán. In addition, there is a strip of drought prone land in the south, in the departments of Escuintla and Suchitepéquez, said Jose Miguel Leiva, coordinator of the unit of Drought and Desertification in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources

Leiva said that 49 percent of the country now has a high susceptibility to drought. This equates to approximately 53,000 square kilometers.

Deforestation, poor soil management, and indiscriminate use of agrochemicals are some of the factors affecting the deterioration of the soil.

The semi-arid corridor includes the departments of Jutiapa, Jalapa, Chiquimula, Zacapa, El Progreso, Baja Verapaz and Quiche. These are the departments that are most affected by severe drought.

In areas threatened by desertification are home to approximately 1,113,000 people or 13 percent of the population. Of this total, 35 percent or 387,000 of the persons affected are indigenous.

Poverty and extreme poverty affects approximately 921,000 people living in areas threatened by desertification, which represents 14.8 percent of the population.

According to the Guatemalan National Financial Strategy, the sustainable management of land is a fundamental instrument to prevent, halt and reverse land degradation and to promote the implementation of good agricultural practices, forestry, and water resource management. These practices help to prevent deterioration of soils and prevent losses before disasters, such as when Hurricane Stan struck the country in 2005 resulting in the loss of 9 million tons of fertile soil with an economic value of Q300 million, and affecting and area of 800,000 hectares.

Desertification is a term originated and established by the General Assembly of the United Nations during the annual meeting held in the city of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1977. This term is related to the diminution or destruction of the soil biological potential that can lead ultimately to desert-type conditions.

Recent Quakes Related to Volcan de Fuego

The Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meteorología e Hidrología, INSIVUMEH, stated that the quakes that have occurred the last few days are a result of increased activity in Volcan de Fuego.

Quakes are a normal occurrence when Fuego has an active episode and is ejecting ash.

The quakes felt in Esquintla are due to the volcano and are not associated with the Jalpatagua fault, which has been responsible for the quakes felt in Guatemala City.

The yellow alert remains in effect. Volcan de Fuego is ejecting ash and there are explosions that rattle windows up to 5 km away.

Aircraft are also prohibited from flying close to the crater, a prohibition that's been in place since November.

Guatemalan Exports Total $1.166 Billion in First Quarter

Guatemalan exports to the international market generated about $1.166 billion in the first quarter of 2009 according to data from Banguat.

This figure is U.S. $46 million higher than for the same period in 2008, when exports generated U.S. $1.120 billion.

Traditional products, coffee, sugar, bananas, and cardamom, produced from January to March accounted for U.S. $501 million.

The remaining foreign exchange, U.S. $665 million, was generated by non-traditional products such as clothing, food, and chemicals.

During 2008 Guatemalan exports totalled more than U.S. $4.9 billion.

Source: Banco de Guatemala

CNEE to present transmission plan in Houston

Guatemala's power regulator CNEE will participate in this month's 7th Latin American Leadership Forum in Houston as part of promotion efforts to build transmission lines under the 2008-18 sector expansion plan, a CNEE official told BNamericas.

Last month, the watchdog issued a call for bids to build a new transmission network which includes 1,394km in new lines and substations that will require US$422mn.

Another US$82.1mn will go to works for the interconnection with Mexico and the Siepac grid. Offers are due on September 29.

Local and international firms have expressed interest in the process, with successful roadshows already held in Spain and Colombia, said the official, adding another roadshow could be held next month in Miami.

The 1,394km are divided into the following systems: Metropacífico (144km, central and south regions), Hidráulico (464km, northwest), Atlántico (585km, northeast), Oriental (55km, southeast) and Occidental (146km, southwest).

Business News Americas

1,300 Acre Golf Resort Opens Near Antigua

La Reunión Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala’s first golf resort, opened last month. Built on what used to be a coffee plantation outside the colonial town of Antigua (a Unesco World Heritage site), the property is lodged between four volcanoes, at 3,700 feet above sea level, with the Pacific Ocean about 30 minutes away. It spans 1,384 acres and includes 26 golf course casitas (each with a small pool, outdoor whirlpool and terrace). A luxury hotel, boutique eco-hotel, spa, observatory and cultural center are planned to open within the next two years.