The return of fish and marine birds to Havana Bay is an indication that Cuban authorities have managed to reduce pollution there by 50-60 percent over the past 10 years, experts quoted by official media reported Sunday.

Havana Bay, which covers 2 square miles and has an average depth of about 30 feet, for years was considered to be one of the most contaminated zones in the Caribbean due to industrial and community waste from the Cuban capital being dumped there via several rivers and other channels.

In 1998, authorities launched the GTE-BH cleanup program for the bay and the port that opens onto it that included identifying the sources of waste water and chemicals flowing into it.

The program found that 124 industries were "aggressively" dumping waste into the bay and developed plans to reduce their polluting activities.

Fifty-three industries were designated "highly polluting" — among them the Ñico Lopez petroleum refinery, whose huge chimney emitted a column of black smoke clearly visible from all over the capital.

The Cuban government is planning to transfer that industry and economic activity to the port of Mariel, located some 31 miles west of Havana where the Special Economic Development Zone is being built.

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