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Rockets or rainforest

launch area is part of the homeland of the Warao people, whose settlements date back 7000 years and are only now being excavated. "Building a rocket launch site will very probably destroy the archaeological record here before it has been fully explored," says Terry Roopnaraine, a Guyanese anthropologist at the University of Cambridge. The World Monuments Fund in New York recently placed the area on its list of the hundred most endangered archaeological sites.

The large exclusion zone around the launch site would also disrupt harvesting of the Waini basin's rich supplies of manicole "heart of palm". Amerindians harvest more than 2 million palm stems from the basin annually and sell them to a French canning company for sale in Europe.

Spoede responds to these concerns by saying that the project will only go ahead if an environmental impact assessment, which is about to start, proves acceptable to both sides. But he adds that drainage work would probably begin in six months, before completion of the assessment. Many Amerindians have backed the scheme, says Spoede. "They want job opportunities for themselves and their children," he told New Scientist.


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Contact: Claire Bowles
claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk
44-207-331-2751
New Scientist
30-May-2000


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