WorldScan: May 5, 2003

* * *

Methanol Facility at Azov City Opposed

AZOV CITY, Russia, May 5, 2003 (ENS) - Several environmental organizations of the Northern Caucasus and the representatives of the citizens of Azov City in Russia's Rostov Region have appealed to the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Jean Lemierre, to halt funding for a methanol reloading terminal project in Azov City. At today's annual meeting of the bank in Tashkent, they claimed that the project is at risk of terrorist attack, environmentally unsafe and hazardous to the inhabitants of Azov City.

The bank invested US$9.2 million in the project, the "Azov Liquid Chemical Port Terminal," in 2000. The project sponsor is joint stock company Azovproduct JSC which is supervised by the Italian corporation Triboldi Group. Construction began in October 2002.

In their appeal, the environmental representatives say the project to handle the volatile flammable liquid puts the environment in extreme jeopardy and engenders high social tensions. There are serious violations of the law at the project design and construction stages and other negative factors, the groups say, and they urge the bank to stop financing the project and demand that construction be suspended until environmental and legal problems are solved.

Methanol is a hazardous chemical, and the presence of a reloading terminal in the environmentally sensitive terrain of the Azov Sea at the estuary of the River Don near a large city "is contrary to the basic principles of the bank and affects its image," the groups wrote in their letter to bank president Lemierre.

The project sponsor submitted incorrect information on the project to the bank, which was compounded by the imperfection of EBRD Environmental Policy, and that is why the bank made what the groups are calling an "evident and serious" investment "error."

Today the EBRD Annual Meeting wound up in Tashkent where a representative of the Independent Environmental Service on North Caucasus went to apply in person to EBRD superior leaders to stop the methanol reloading terminal at Azov.

The location of the methanol terminal is planned in an ecologically vulnerable terrain, the environmentalists warn, at the estuary where the River Don meets the Azov Sea, the habitat of valuable commercial fish species.

"From the biological pont of view the Azov Sea is a unique reservoir with high biological efficiency, it is a habitat of many rare species as well. The Azov Sea has great recreation value," the groups wrote.

The coast of the Azov Sea is densely populated. Since the Azov Sea is shallow, the consequences of a methanol tanker wreck would be catastrophic both for the Azov Sea ecosystem and for the inhabitants living on its shores, the groups argue.

The terminal facilities are being built in the immediate vicinity of the Azov City residential zone. The distance from the methanol storage tanks to the residential zone is 400 meters (1,312 feet), from the methanol high pressure pipeline to the residential zone, just 100 meters (328 feet).

"Fire and explosive risks of the terminal under operation are very high. The railway, by which it is planned to deliver methanol to the terminal facilities, passes throughout the city," the groups warn.

They charge that the construction of the terminal facilities is being carried out without the appropriate state environmental assessment. In 1997 the State Environmental Committee of the Russian Federation at the working project stage carried out a state environmental assessment. But the terminal project has undergone essential changes, and so, according to the Law of Russian Federation on environmental assessments, the project has to be subjected to a second environmental assessment, the groups advised Lemierre.

Taking into account the extremely high political tension in the North Caucasus because of the war in the Chechen Republic, and the high risk of terrorist acts in this region, the groups warn that the terminal construction at the city of Azov creates a real possibility for terrorist acts. The location of the terminal facilities is so vulnerable, they say, that such terrorist acts could be easily effected.

* * *

First of 30 Fuel Cell Buses on Trial in Europe

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, May 5, 2003 (ENS) - Ballard Power Systems customer and partner, DaimlerChrysler, today delivered the first zero-emission Mercedes-Benz Citaro Bus powered with a Ballard® fuel cell engine to public transport authorities in Madrid, Spain, as part of the European Fuel Cell Bus Project.

This is the first of 30 Citaro buses equipped with 205 kW Ballard fuel cell engines that will be delivered over the next year to 10 cities - Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Porto, Rekjavik, Stockholm and Stuttgart.

Driven by regular transit bus drivers, the new fuel cell powered buses will carry passengers in daily service in each city for a two year field trial. Ballard has shipped 18 heavy duty fuel cell engines to DaimlerChrysler's bus assembly plant in Mannheim, Germany and expects to ship the remaining engines this year.

"This is the start of the fuel cell and hydrogen revolution in Europe," said Dennis Campbell, Ballard's president and CEO. "Thousands of people all across Europe will have the opportunity to experience first-hand, the clean, quiet and comfortable ride of these zero-emission buses."

The European Fuel Cell Bus Project provides a "unique opportunity to showcase the diversity of solutions available for the production and delivery of hydrogen fuel," said Campbell.

To fuel the 30 buses, 10 hydrogen refueling stations will be established, each producing hydrogen using a unique process, highlighting the flexibility available with hydrogen production.

The fuel cell engines Ballard makes are proton exchange membrane fuel cells - electrochemical devices in which the energy of a chemical reaction is converted directly into electricity, the company explains on its website.

By combining hydrogen fuel with oxygen from air, electricity is formed, without combustion of any form. Water and heat are the only by-products when hydrogen is used as the fuel source.

Although hydrogen is considered the primary fuel source for fuel cells, the process of fuel reforming allows for the extraction of hydrogen from other fuels including methanol, natural gas, petroleum, or renewable sources. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging, Ballard explains, it operates as long as a fuel is supplied.

As an extension of its heavy duty engine programs, Ballard recently began the integration of its engine into the first of three Gillig Corporation buses at its Burnaby, BC facilities, for delivery in 2004 to Gillig's customer, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in California.

These buses represent the fourth field trial for Ballard fuel cell powered buses in North America. Previous generation engines operated in bus field trials in Chicago, Vancouver, and Palm Springs. This is a joint demonstration program with the Santa Clara VTA, the San Mateo Transportation District, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the California Air Resources Board.

* * *

Bear Gall Bladder Internet Trafficker Charged

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, May 5, 2003 (ENS) - When the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Intelligence alerted Canadian officials that bear gall bladders were being sold on the Internet, the alert touched off a joint federal and provincial wildlife enforcement investigation that has netted hundreds of bladders and several alleged traffickers.

The extensive investigation uncovered a large network of trade and traffic in gall bladders and other wildlife with possible links within Quebec, Ontario, the United States and Asia.

On November 20, 2002, a series of search warrants was executed simultaneously in Ontario and Québec, resulting in the seizure of hundreds of black bear gall bladders. The charges laid in Ontario involve 368 black bear gall bladders and two sets of black bear paws.

On Friday, Ontario provincial officials announced that they had laid 29 additional charges against a Richmond Hill family that already had been charged with 84 charges related to illegal possession, transport, export, and trafficking in black bear gall bladders.

Choo-Sin (William) Chang, his wife Ok-Soon (Julie) Chang and their daughter, Julia Chang face charges under the federal Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of Interprovincial and International Trade Act and the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

The defendants' first appearance for all charges was April 25, 2003, in Old City Hall court in Toronto. All matters have been set over until September 19, 2003.

In Quebec, Environment Canada recently charged two people with 27 offenses under the federal legislation involving 418 black bear gall bladders.

They face fines totaling C$149,667 upon conviction. La Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec is continuing their investigation and more charges are expected under provincial legislation.

Environment Canada wildlife officers are working cooperatively with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and La Sociètè de la faune et des parcs du Quebec.

The charges under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of Interprovincial and International Trade Act carry a maximum fine for individuals of $25,000 and/or six months in jail per violation.

Under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the maximum penalty per violation is $100,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of not more than two years if the offence was committed for commercial purposes.

Bear gall bladders are used in traditional Asian medicine. The black market value of black bear gall bladders can range from $2,000 to $10,000 for each gall bladder or up to $55 per gram.

* * *

Australia's Largest Tree Cooked from the Inside

HOBART, Tasmania, Australia, May 5, 2003 (ENS) - El Grande, Australia's most massive tree, has been killed by Forestry Tasmania's regeneration burn, according to a botanical consultant. Alan Gray, who has 45 years experience in the botany of eucalypts and acacias, inspected the tree twice this week. The forestry agency was supposed to have spared the country's largest giant.

Gray recorded damage to the tree's root system from machinery clearing a path around the tree, intense burning inside the hollow tree, and the loss of huge branches from the canopy as a result of flames emerging from hollows up to 65 meters (213.25 feet) high.

Forestry Tasmania says that regeneration burning is necessary "to create conditions which promote healthy, fast growing eucalypt regeneration following harvesting of native forests."

Gray was a consultant for the Regional Forest Agreement in carrying out surveys of the forests in north-east Tasmania and has worked as an information and education officer at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, among other qualifications.

The Wilderness Society's Tasmanian campaign coordinator Geoff Law said that the revelations about El Grande, which have been aired nationally, show the futility of the recently released arrangements being negotiated between the logging and tourism industries.

"If Forestry Tasmania can't look after one tree, how can they be trusted to care for the state's magnificent forests?" Law challenged.

El Grande is listed on Forestry Tasmania's website as Tasmania's most massive tree. This makes it the most massive tree in Australia - at 79 meters tall, 20 meters in girth and a volume of 439 cubic meters.

Gray observed that the leaves of the crown are still present but quite brown, brittle and dead, but not burnt or singed. The lower butt of the tree had been exposed for approximately one meter (39 inches) by a bulldozer or a similar machine. Some roots had been exposed and damaged.

The regeneration burn had burned right up to the tree and had charred the buttress bark, particularly on the southern side, Gray found. The fire appears to have been particularly intense in the vicinity of the tree, humus and other organic litter having been burned down to mineral earth.

The dry rot and wood inside the trunk had ignited and the configuration of draught holes at the base with outlet holes further up had acted like a furnace and chimney.

"The temperatures generated within the tree core mush have been extremely high, virtually cooking the tree from the inside-out," Gray said.

* * *

Finnish Old Growth Logged for German Paper

LUEBECK, Germany, May 5, 2003 (ENS) - Some of the last fragments of ancient forests that once covered most of Europe are being logged and sold from Finland to Germany but not without a fight.

Activists from nine countries protested the import of paper from the last old growth forests of Finland onboard the freighter "Finnhawk" in the Baltic Sea near Luebeck on Friday. They warn that the Finnish government continues to log rare and vulnerable forests despite calls from scientists and conservationists for increased protection.

The ship's cargo comes from the Finnish paper producing companies Stora Enso and M-Real. Every week similar cargoes are delivered to the German market. Finland is responsible for one quarter of the world's printing and writing paper exports, and one sixth of its paper board exports.Germany is the largest importer of Finnish paper products, importing 40 percent of the cellulose and 20 percent of the paper consumed in Germany each year.

As a result, says Greenpeace International, Finland's forests, including the remaining old growth forests, are being destroyed by clearcutting, forest thinning and road construction.

Forests which are crucial for maintaining biodiversity and the traditional livelihoods of the indigenous Sami people and other communities. Over 500 species are also threatened due to deforestation. This logging is driven by the country's massive international paper industry.

Oliver Salge from Greenpeace Germany says the European market's hunger for Finnish paper is decimating the forest. "Each week paper delivered by the 'Finnhawk' disappears into innumerable magazines, envelopes, copy paper and packaging material, all at the expense of the forests. Ancient forests must be saved not pressed into paper and cardboard," he said.

The activists in Lubeck want to tell German consumers that less than five percent of the Finnish forest cover today is made up of ancient forests and only half of that is protected from industrial logging and further destruction.

"We want the Finnish paper producing company Stora Enso, UPM Khymmene and M-Real to stop processing timber from ancient forests. The Finnish government must create protected areas and halt timber production in ancient forests," Salge said.

They are asking buyers of paper products to look for the Forest Stewardship Council logo to ensure they are not purchasing the products of ancient forest destruction or supporting illegal logging.

Stora Enso says that all of its Northern European wood procurement units, operating in the Nordic Countries, Russia, the Baltic Countries and Central Europe, now apply similar environmental and social responsibility principles to all sources of fiber.

"Ensuring raw material procurement is sustainable, and minimizing environmental impacts remain the core elements of the new principles, but greater emphasis is now also given to social responsibility and communications," the company says. "Broadening third party verification to cover all sources of wood will be the next step towards ensuring full compliance with these principles."

* * *

Bhutanese Forest Corridor Gets Three Way Protection

THIMPHU, Bhutan, May 5, 2003 (ENS) - A newly protected forest corridor through the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan will be subject to the joint management of the government of Bhutan, a United Nations agency and a conservation organization.

On Wednesday the "green corridor" project was announced by WWF, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Bhutanese government. It is one of the first projects in a new UNDP-WWF global partnership designed to combat poverty and environmental degradation.

Bhutan's forest and mountain ecosystems are inhabited by the endangered Bengal tiger and other species threatened by overgrazing, poaching, illegal trading, deforestation, and destructive agricultural practices.

The project will provide ecologically friendly development opportunities for Bhutanese people through alternative energy sources, improved health services, and cottage industries such as cheese making, honey production, and non-timber forest products.

The Global Environment Facility, the World Bank Group funding agency for handling environmental threats, will provide US$792,000 for the US$1.8 million project. WWF and the Government of Bhutan will fund the remainder. The three entities will jointly carry out the protective activities.

"Conserving biodiversity and improving people's livelihoods are inextricably linked and neither can succeed without the other," said UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown. "The opportunity to work with WWF in places such as Bhutan and Nepal is an exciting prospect that will help us achieve the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015."

"This partnership is an exciting opportunity for the WWF to work beside our United Nations colleagues on critical issues that affect the health and well-being of billions of people, plants and animals," said Dr. Claude Martin, director general of WWF. "As we begin working in Bhutan, and plan joint projects on every continent, we realize that this is a huge responsibility that will leave a lasting legacy for our children."

By joining together, UNDP and WWF combine their global networks to help the world's poorest countries tackle pressing environmental problems, such as deforestation, desertification, climate change, and the spread of toxic chemicals.

The two organizations are jointly working on other projects around the world, including a US$13.1 million biodiversity conservation project in Nepal's Western Terai region aimed at linking protected areas with green forest corridors and empower local communities in managing the forests.

* * *