The Supreme Court of Hawaii on Tuesday temporarily suspended a permit that would have allowed the construction of a giant Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) to proceed atop the Mauna Kea summit. In a unanimous ruling, the court granted an emergency stay on the construction, which was previously scheduled to resume Wednesday.
The court’s ruling prevents construction of the telescope until Dec. 2 or until another ruling is issued.
“They cannot legally do any work on Mauna Kea,” Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, the plaintiffs' attorney who filed the emergency request late Monday, reportedly said. “It avoids for a while any further desecration of the land.”
The telescope, planned to be built on the summit of Mauna Kea, would be one of the world’s largest -- if constructed. Designed to operate in near-ultraviolet and mid-infrared wavelengths, the TMT would have a much higher resolution than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing scientists to glimpse the universe in its infancy. Mauna Kea, which is a dormant volcano, is the ideal site as it provides a clear view of the sky for most part of the year, with little air and light pollution.
However, the site is considered sacred by some native Hawaiians, who say that the land contains burials, monuments, and places of worship venerated by them. Some environmentalists have also opposed the telescope’s construction, claiming that it would damage the ecosystem and harm the existing “physical and environmental aspects of the land.”
As a result, the construction at the site -- which began in March -- has since been halted, and, in April, several protesters who refused to leave the area were arrested.
“We respect the Court decision and we will stand down between now and Dec. 2,” TMT spokesman Scott Ishikawa reportedly said. “The Supreme Court’s decision will give all parties involved in the appeal sufficient time to respond to the motion.”