In July 2016, the union of self-employed workers, artisanal fishermen, shellfish fishermen and similar branches of Caleta Horcón, represented by the environmental defender’s office, filed an environmental damage lawsuit in Quintero, Puchuncaví and Concón, against thirteen companies and state agencies.
“The situation of environmental damage is evident: there is a significant loss of marine and plant species, a significant decrease in air and soil quality, an increase in respiratory diseases and the incidence of tumors in the population; Finally, the environmental damage situation in the area is undeniable,” the lawsuit says.
This Tuesday, January 3, the hearings began in the Second Environmental Court against the National Copper Corporation of Chile Ventanas Division (Codelco), Puerto Ventana SA, National Electricity Company SA (ENEL), GNL Quintero SA, Empresas COPEC SA Gasmar SA Oxiquim SA , Petroleos Asfaltos y Combustibles SA, Melon SA, Empresa Nacional del Petroleo, Ministry of the Environment, Catamutun Enegia SA and AES Gener SA
“We perceive the first day of the hearings as a very relevant milestone for environmental justice in Chile in general, this is the largest trial to date for environmental damages. The Tribunal has a very demanding task that has to do with the crediting the damage and at the same time determining who was responsible for the environmental damage and, of course, and most importantly defining how this damage will be remediable,” said Alejandra Donoso, executive director of the Environmental Advocate’s Office and defense attorney in the case .
The applicants are seeking compensation for the environmental damage caused over decades by the industrial activity in the Quintero bay and in the Puchuncaví region, Valparaíso.
“What we hope as the Office of the Environmental Defender through the declaration of the various witnesses who will testify in these days is that the Court can internalize and dimension the reality of the situation of environmental damage and its characteristics of continuity, synergy, complexity and difficulty beyond information that is in the public domain and documentary information that appears in the file,” said the lawyer.
In total, more than 100 witnesses will file statements between January 3 and 18, but if all hearings are not held in January, they will resume in March.
“Until the existence of the damage, those responsible and the way to repair it are determined, unfortunately it is very likely that these events will continue to occur because they are not isolated and respond to a risk that was created contrary to human rights safety standards” , concluded Alejandra Donoso.
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