LA PALMA, Canary Islands (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thirty Meter Telescope protesters at the base of Mauna Kea have urged the telescope’s backers to move the project to a back-up site in the Canary Islands.
And last week, the agency that manages telescopes there said they’re “ready” for TMT.
But some environmentalists aren’t greeting the giant telescope with open arms.
In fact, Ben Magec - Ecologistas en Acción, an environmentalist group based in the Canary Islands, says it plans to seek legal action to stop the $1.4 billion telescope from being built on the island La Palma.
The environmentalists claim there is a growing view in the Canary Islands that the proposed mountain chosen to be the back-up site for the TMT project has “already exceeded the capacity to house more telescopes," the organization said in a news release Monday.
“We have already paid a high price for astronomical science.”
The announcement by the group comes a week after the Canary Islands said it’s “listos" ― “ready” ― to support TMT if the project cancels its plans for Mauna Kea, according to Spanish media reports.
Meanwhile, Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute Director Rafael Rebolo told The Associated Press on Monday that he received a letter from the head of the Thirty Meter Telescope project saying its board recently decided “to proceed with the request to seek a building permit” for the island of La Palma.
However, Rebolo insisted the consortium that already obtained a permit in Hawaii still plans to put the telescope on the top of Mauna Kea.
TMT reiterated that statement Monday morning, telling Hawaii News Now in a statement:
"We continue to follow the process to allow for TMT to be constructed at the ‘plan B’ site in La Palma should it not be possible to build in Hawaii. This process has been ongoing since 2016. Maunakea remains the preferred site for TMT.”
Some Native Hawaiians believe Mauna Kea is sacred, and protesters are in their fourth week of blocking access to the mountain’s summit to prevent construction.
In a statement Ben Magec - Ecologistas en Acción said it has “no less reason or less determination than the Hawaiian TMT opponents.”
The group is a non-governmental organization that’s pushed back against over-development in the Canary Islands over more than two decades.
“We can understand what is happening in Hawaii concerning the TMT,” the group’s statement said, referring to the island of La Palma. “The development of astronomical infrastructures has been done without respect for the people and for the natural and cultural values.”
The statement goes on to say a notable portion of the island’s natural and archaeological sites have been lost already, saying some of those sites were important for the understanding of the culture of the island’s aboriginal ancestors.
The group said it has already taken some legal action against TMT in the Canary Islands, and vows that if TMT decides to build in what it calls a “legally protected area” on La Palma, "each step will lead to additional legal action on our part.”
The Canary Islands is an “autonomous community” of Spain. The archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean is home to the Observatorios de Canarias, with telescopes on the islands of Tenerife and La Palma.