New deal

Published: Thursday 31 July 2008

the mix of salt and freshwater at Everglades in Florida, us, makes it the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles co-exist. It has a massive network of lakes, creeks, swamps and rivers--and a sugar factory. Efforts are on to revive the wetland by closing down the factory that owns 75,670 hectares of land under water-hungry sugarcane plantation. The idea is to replenish groundwater and buffer the area against hurricanes, besides cutting the flow of agricultural chemicals.

On June 24, the South Florida Water Management District (sfwmd) and the us Sugar Corp signed a deal to revive the Everglades. The us $1.75 billion deal will buy out the sugar company that produces 8 per cent of the total sugar produced in the country. The company will be allowed to operate for six more years. Part of the land would be turned into reservoirs and pollution-filtering areas to restore the flow of water between the lake and Everglades National Park. The move is aimed at undoing decades of flood-control projects that were built to make way for houses and farms. Farming in the region has long been considered a hindrance to restoring natural water flow to the Everglades.

The move will leave 1,700 workers without jobs. Florida Governor Charlie Crist has asked state agencies to assist with economic development and job creation. According to Crist, the key to getting the deal started was a federal lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and the Florida Wildlife Federation challenging the practice of back-pumping farm runoff containing phosphorous, pesticides and other chemicals into the lake. The suit contended that back-pumping triggered massive algae bloom and worsened water quality for towns that draw drinking water from the lake.

Even when this deal is being termed one of its kind, it has problems, like paying us $1.75 billion could leave the South Florida Water Management District strapped for cash.

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