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Colombia considers container port in humpback whale habitat

May 12, 2010 | 11:05 am

Malaga bay colombia

Colombia is proposing a port development that environmentalists say could severely affect a coastal mating habitat for humpback whales from Antarctica, Chris Kraul reports in The Times. Malaga Bay, near the major city of Cali, was just a few steps away from being named a national park last year, thus preserving it permanently, before President Alvaro Uribe ceded to pressure from the country's major business group to conduct a feasibility study for the container port proposal.

"Now environmentalists are fearful that the port project could take on a momentum of its own," Kraul writes.

Malaga Bay welcomes as many as 1,000 migrating whales between June and August, fueling a small but growing eco-tourism industry in the area. But ANDI, as the national business group is known, says the bay's natural depth makes it ideal for large container ship traffic that could create a hub in Colombia for trade with Asia. Jobs generated, ANDI argues, would give young Cali residents an alternative to entering the drug trade.

Meanwhile, oil production in Colombia is gushing, which could "probably lead to increased Colombian exports to the U.S.," Kraul reports. Additionally, Colombia and the United States continue to march closer to ratifying a free trade agreement.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: A humpback whale in Malaga Bay, Colombia. Credit: Lilian Florez of Fundacion Yubarta, via El Espectador

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