CALAS is an acronym which stands for Centro de Acción Legal-Ambiental y Social. Translated to english CALAS is the Center for Environmental, Social and Legal Actions.
CALAS is an environmental and social advocacy organization. It investigates environmental and social issues, educates citizens about these issues, and aims to promote community participation and debate in resolving these issues.
CALAS has worked within the legal framework to demonstrate the environmental impact of mining and petroleum projects as well as to campaign against contamination of drinking water and occupation of nature reserves.
In June of 2008, CALAS succeeded in striking down aspects of the Mining Law in Guatemala. Before CALAS intervened Mining Law had "allowed mining to an unlimited depth and and the discharge of contaminated water from mines into rivers." CALAS petitioned the Constitutional Court to strike down aspects of the Mining Law and the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the Mining Law was unconstitutional because it was too lax regarding the environmental consequences of mining.
In September of 2008, the director of CALAS, Yuri Melini, was shot seven times by an unknown assailant. Melini survived the shooting and continues his work with CALAS undeterred. The Guatemalan government has speculated that the attempt on Melini's life was meant to intimidate those engaging in environmental advocacy. The same day Melini was shot 50 other environmental activists also received threats.
Most recently, in February of 2010, CALAS has helped to halt the construction of a petroleum storage plant in Punta de Manabique, a protected wildlife reserve in Guatemala. Working with CONAP, the National Council of Protected Areas, CALAS successfully petitioned the Guatemalan government to halt the project. Yuri Melini said "20 percent of the plant would lie within the reserve and the remaining 80 percent within an ecological zone that is in the process of recovery." The Mexican company that had proposed the plant was given five days to appeal the decision.
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