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Native Hawaiians ask UN to help stop construction of $2.65 billion telescope on sacred mountain


Native Hawaiians have turned to the United Nations to help them stop the construction of a giant $2.65 billion telescope on the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.

Background: The extremely large telescope, known as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), has been planned for decades. Construction started in 2014 but was halted due to heavy mass resistance.

At the moment, Mauna Kea – the highest mountain on Earth from base to peak – is already home to 21 telescopes and 13 observatories. If the new telescope is built, scientists are said to be able to “answer fundamental questions in astronomy, ranging from understanding the formation of stars and planets to unraveling the history of galaxies and the development of large-scale structures in the universe.”

As of 2021, the TMT estimated to cost $2.65 billion, up from the previous $1.4 billion. Stakeholders in the multinational project include the US, Canada, China, India and Japan.

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What the petitioners say: The petition against the TMT was sent to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on July 14, in line with the fourth anniversary of protests by elders and hundreds of others who formed blockades to stop construction. It described Mauna Kea as “a sacred site of immense religious, spiritual and cultural importance to Native Hawaiians” and argued that the construction of the TMT violates the rights of Native peoples.

Requesters Involving Kahea, a Hawaiian environmental organization; Ziibiing Lab, a University of Toronto research group focused on Indigenous politics; and the University of Windsor Transnational Law and Racial Justice Network. They particularly criticized Canada’s involvement in the project and urged the United Nations Unpleasant intervene to “prevent further and irreparable damage to the land, practices, and sacred sites of Native Hawaiians.”

“The Government of Canada is a key partner and supporter of the TMT project, which has been legally and physically challenged by Native Hawaiians for decades,” said Uahikea Maile, director of the Ziibiing Lab, according to CTV news. “We must not tolerate the status quo of Canadian human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, both within and beyond its borders.”

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