Sala IV freezes cane burning permits as new case presented

The Sala IV constitutional court has asked three ministries and the nation’s lawyer to comment on a new allegation against the burning of sugar cane fields.

The case came from the  Asociación Confraternidad Guanacasteca and Air Limpio Vida Sana of Grecia. The organizations reflect the concern by many residents, including expats, who witness field fires at every sugar cane harvest.

The court has given the ministries of  Salud,  Agricultura y Ganadería and Ambiente y Enería 15 days to respond. This is a usual process. Also asked to comment was the Procuraduría.

The case is complicated because in 2002 there was a ruling by the same court that said the government should take steps to  mitigate the problem, said the complainants. The court at that time gave a deadline of 10 months that still has not been met, they said.

Sugar cane growers fire the fields to reduce plant materials and eliminate critters that might harm agricultural workers. However, the fires sometimes are gigantic and produce air pollution.

The  Air Limpio Vida Sana quoted  Carolina Rugeles, agricultural engineer and founder of the group:

“In agriculture the old method of pre-harvest cane firing is not consistent with current ecological philosophy,” she said. “Resultant pollution conflicts with the country’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2021 and causes enormous damage to the health of the population and biodiversity.

“The contamination accelerates the accumulation of greenhouse gases, thus increasing the rate of climate change and global warming.”

The Sala IV froze new burning permits for 15 days, the  groups said.

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