Environment watchdog files case against Caldera highway

As if Autopista del Sol did not have enough problems, the environmental enforcement agency has hauled the firm and its executives into a trial for damage to the landscape.

The agency, the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, blames the company for at least 22 violations that resulted from building the San José-Caldera highway. The agency, part of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, announced the allegations Tuesday.

The agency has the power to levy fines and said it was looking for 581 million colons or about $1.2 million.

During construction of the roadway, there were complaints from neighbors along the road that the workers were damaging water sources, but no action was taken at that time. Among those being called into court is Rodolfo Hernández Ramírez, who is believed to be an environmental expert who had the job of insuring compliance from the contractors of the road.

Autopista del Sol built the highway under a concession agreement. It is compensated by tolls. But the company has been under fire for leaving slopes that resulted in slides and problems with the roadway.
Company representatives being brought to court are Carlos Jaraquemada, Pedro Pontage, Cristian Sandoval and Sergio Ramírez. All have powers to direct the firm. Only Ramírez is a Costa Rican.

The allegations include jeopardizing a water source, eliminating vegetation, causing landslides, cutting trees and reducing space for wildlife. The tribunal said it began the case in 2009. The tribunal said that the evidence in the case fills 14 books.

Among those pressing the case are José Martín Irías, identified as a neighbor; Mauricio Castro Lizano of the Procuraduría General de la República; and the Área de Conservación Pacífico Central, which is under the ministry.

The Procuradoría is the government’s civil lawyer.

The tribunal released a long list of locations where violations took place. One is in Piedades de Santa Ana where the company is charged with dumping thousands of cubic meters of soil into a ravine. Most of the allegations involve filling in ravines or encroaching on them. Allegations continue at points all the way to the central Pacific coast.

The initial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23 and 24 with 11 witnesses.

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