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WATER WORLD
At least 141 workers fired at site for Brazil's Amazon dam
by Staff Writers
Brasilia (AFP) Nov 18, 2011


At least 141 workers have been fired at the construction site for Brazil's controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the heart of the Amazon following a dispute over working conditions, one of them said Friday.

Jose Antonio Cardoso, a representative for the workers, said the consortium in charge of the $11 billion project had promised to help resolve the dispute but instead announced that 134 workers were being fired "without explanation."

"First they fired 134, then four others, including myself, then three more," he added.

Cardoso said the workers were demanding better pay as well as improved working conditions.

Police then escorted the fired workers to the bus station, where they were driven back to the northeastern state of Maranhao from they had been recruited, he added.

A spokesman for the CCBM consortium in charge of the project said only 120 workers were let go.

Last month more than 400 activists occupied the site of what would be the third biggest dam in the world -- after China's Three Gorges dam and the Itaipu dam on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

Construction of the Belo Monte dam -- which would produce more than 11,000 megawatts, or about 11 percent of Brazil's current installed capacity -- has been the subject of legal wrangling for decades.

The project also has drawn international criticism, including from Oscar-winning movie director James Cameron of "Avatar" fame, who said rainforest indigenous tribes could turn to violence to block dam construction.

But President Dilma Rousseff's government has insisted the project should be allowed to go ahead, making it the centerpiece of government efforts to boost energy production in the rapidly growing economy.

The project is expected to employ 20,000 people directly in construction, flood an area of 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) along the Xingu river and displace 16,000 persons.

The government had pledged to minimize the environmental and social impact of the dam and asserted that no traditional indigenous land was to be affected.

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Great Plains water pumping imperils fish
Corvallis, Ore. (UPI) Nov 18, 2011 - Great Plains river basins are threatened by pumping of groundwater from aquifers, risking a bleak future for native fish in many streams, U.S. researchers say.

Unlike alluvial aquifers, which can be replenished with rain and snow, these regional aquifers were created by melting glaciers during the last Ice Age, the researchers say, and when that water is gone, it's gone for good.

"It is a finite resource that is not being recharged," Jeffrey Falke, a researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, said.

"That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented."

In a three-year study of the Arikaree River in eastern Colorado, researchers concluded that during the next 35 years only slightly more than half of the current fish refuge pools would remain.

Falke and his colleagues say it would require a 75 percent reduction in the rate of groundwater pumping to maintain current water table levels and refuge pools, which is "not economically or politically feasible," the study said.

Pumping of regional aquifers is done almost entirely for agriculture, Falke said, with about 90 percent of the irrigation aimed at corn production, along with some alfalfa and wheat.



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WATER WORLD
In Romania, hydro frenzy spells green dilemma
Fagaras Mountains, Romania (AFP) Nov 15, 2011
On the spiny ridge of Romania's southern Carpathian mountains, cool streams tumble down gorges, providing a stirring sight to visitors and a vital source for aquatic species. Precious as the stuff of life, the water also carries economic bounty, posing an anguishing problem for environmentalists. Across the region, entrepreneurs are furiously installing small-scale hydro-electric plants, ... read more


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