The Chilean sky is
overcast with thunderheads
of controversy. Lawyers,
scientists and landowners
are slugging it out with
the European Southern
Observatory (ESO) - an 8-state venture by Germany,
Denmark, Sweden, Holland,
Belgium, France, Italy and
Switzerland, to grab control
of the site at Paranal in the
Atacama desert, where the
world's largest telescope is to
ESO claims that it has been developing the, land since 1988, when it was handed the area by the then ruling Pinochet regime. In 1992, the group received a rude jolt when a mob of angry claimants swore that the land was rightfully theirs and they had to be paid for it. Chilean lawyers acting on their behalf set the value at us $5 million: Eso now claims that it has not known a moment's peace ever since. Demonstrators have repeatedly held up work. Even a posse of policemen descended last February to "inspect the site", thus grossly violating diplomatic immunity, says the local director, Daniel Hofsstadt.
Faced with disgruntled ESO men threatening to pack up and leave, the government finally decided to intervene. On April 18, it signed an agreement offering a new deal, guaranteeing ESO',s diplomatic status and also taking on the task of dealing with the landowners.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.