Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 29th 2016 Contents A20
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BUDAPEST---A Hungarian court yes-
terday acquitted 15 employees of a com-
pany whose burst reservoir in 2010
flooded three towns with toxic red
sludge, killing 10 people.
A court in the city of Veszprem said
the spill, Hungary s worst environmental
disaster, had been caused by the collapse
of a reservoir wall due to "loss of stability
originating in the subsoil," Hungarian state
The court said that couldn t have been
foreseen by the executives or employees
of MAL, the Hungarian Aluminum Pro-
duction and Trade company.
The spilled sludge was a highly caustic
waste product of aluminum production.
More than 1 million cubic meters of the
material poured out of the huge reservoir
in minutes, flooding the western Hungarian
villages of Kolontar, Devecser and Somlo-
vasarhely. The sludge even reached the
Danube River through tributaries, but was
sufficiently diluted by then to avoid causing
Hundreds of people were evacuated.
The houses most affected by the sludge
flood were later demolished and entire
neighborhoods were relocated and rebuilt.
"There is still no one responsible for
the 2010 sludge flood," Greenpeace said
in a statement. "However, it is obvious
that human negligence led to the catas-
trophe" both on the part of MAL and the
authorities in charge of permitting and
overseeing the company s activities. (AP)
Authorities in India s Goa state recent-
ly said the region s iconic and much loved
coconut palm would no longer be regard-
ed as a tree, but a plant. The decision
has caused outrage with green activists
questioning the government order, writes
Pamela D Mello in Goa.
In the middle of December, the Goa
government announced it intended to
drop cocos nucifera---commonly known
as the coconut palm---from the list of trees
from the Goa Daman and Diu Preservation
of Trees Act, 1984.
There was instant condemnation from
opposition parties and much of the state s
vocal populace. Social media also exploded
Opposition members and green activists,
taking inspiration from the 1970s Indian
Chipko agitation which saw a resistance
movement to the destruction of forests,
organised a demonstration with activists
hugging coconut trees.
Despite the protest, earlier this month,
the government went ahead and changed
the Act, which dropped the coconut palm
as a tree.
Under the new law, felling a coconut
palm will no longer need a permit from
the forest department. Instead, it has been
included in a section for felling old and
"Botanically the coconut tree is not
even a tree, because it does not have
branches," Goa Environment Minister
Rajendra Arlekar said, setting off a debate
on international botany sites as the news
made waves internationally."
MEXICO CITY---Uniformed Mexican
immigration agents put "affluenza"
teen Ethan Couch aboard a commer-
cial flight to Dallas Texas yesterday
morning, ending his month-long stay
Mexico s immigration institute said
that Couch, who used an "affluenza"
defence in a fatal drunken-driving acci-
dent, was taken to the Mexico City air-
port from an immigration holding cen-
ter where he had been held.
Couch and his mother, Tonya, were
detained in the resort of Puerto Vallarta
in December. His mother was quickly
sent back to the US. She was released
after posting bail. But lawyers for Ethan
Couch filed an appeal against depor-
tation, delaying his return.
Video released by the immigration
institute showed Couch wearing a bluish
camouflage-print hoodie, being escort-
ed out of the detention center before
dawn, and being escorted onto the
plane by four agents.
Couch s Mexican lawyer, Fernando
Benitez, said Tuesday that Ethan Couch
formally ratified his decision to drop
the appeal on Monday.
While the appeal had centered on
whether Couch should have been
afforded a longer extradition process
rather than deportation, in the end the
Mexican government simply called it
"an assisted return."
Tonya Couch s arrest affidavit alleges
that she and her 18-year-old son fled
the state in December as Texas pros-
ecutors investigated whether he had
violated his probation in the case of a
2013 wreck that killed four people.
Mother and son were taken into custody
later that month in Puerto Vallarta,
after a call for pizza delivery tipped off
authorities to their whereabouts.
Tonya Couch is charged with hin-
dering the apprehension of a felon and
could face up to 10 years in prison if
During Ethan Couch s trial, a defence
witness said the teen was coddled into
a sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy
parents, a condition the expert called
"affluenza." The condition is not recog-
nised as a medical diagnosis by the
American Psychiatric Association, and
its invocation drew widespread ridicule.
Upon his return to Texas, Ethan
Couch will be held in a juvenile deten-
tion center. (AP)
teen on plane
Court acquits 15
charged in sludge
palm 'no longer
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