Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s largest mountain, said they intend to hold a rally on Friday, April 28, at Caltech’s Astronomy Building in Pasadena, as authorities in Hawaii continue a contested case hearing about whether to grant the project a new construction permit on land considered sacred by the protesters.
The TMT’s initial permit was invalidated by the state’s Supreme Court in December 2015 after determining Hawaii’s Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the permit before project opponents could air their side.
“Quite simply, the Board put the cart before the horse when it issued the permit,” the court decision in 2015 read. “Accordingly, the permit cannot stand.”
A post on ColoradoBlvd.net said the rally at Caltech will be at 3 p.m.
The TMT project, a project that could cost about $1.4 billion, is the result of partnerships among Caltech, India’s Department of Science and Technology, China’s National Astronomical Observatories, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Canada’s National Research Council and the University of California.
Once completed, TMT promises to provide vivid and cutting-edge images of everything from exoplanets to distant galaxies.
When construction started in 2014, Native Hawaiians and other opponents of the project blocked the road to the project site and filed a case with Hawaii’s court system in an effort to stop construction.
Protesters also assembled in Pasadena, where TMT project offices are, to criticize Caltech’s participation in the project.
Many native Hawaiians argue the project could desecrate Mauna Kea and its environs which they consider sacred ground. They also fear the construction could contaminate the water supply on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Even if the project is approved, its supporters worry that it may never come to light as continuing opposition to its construction on sacred grounds may make it difficult to build and operate, according to Science Mag. The project’s overseers are actively looking for alternative sites just in case Hawaii proves to be too inhospitable.
In November, TMT officials said they were considering a mountain in the Canary Island as an alternative site for the project.
To Hawaiians, Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the state’s Big Island, is considered one of the most sacred places in the islands, according to earlier Pasadena Now reports. Mauna Kea is a primary source of pure drinking and irrigation water for residents of the Big Island as it flows all the way down to the Pacific Ocean.
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