Eight windmills of more than 100 meters high are about to shake the already hazardous life of the 250 wild horses that ride through the mountains of A Estrada, Cerdedo, Campolameiro and Cuntis, in the province of Pontevedra. The Galician Government has given the green light to the construction of the Pico Touriñán wind farm projected by Enel Green Power, a wind subsidiary of Endesa, through an environmental impact statement that ignores threats to horses and their daily sustenance. "The Galician Government has not forced the company to take any concrete action to avoid endangering the beasts," explains Ivan Sanmartín, of the A Rapa das Bestas Association, which is in charge of its custody.
The well-known ones like beasts of Sabucedo are indomitable horses on which the neighbors of this Galician region rush each summer to cut them the mane, worming them and To fulfill this way with the millennial ritual of A Rapa das Bestas. They inhabit, grouped in 12 herds, some 3,000 hectares of the mountainous massif that rises between the rivers Umia and Lérez. A report commissioned by the association to forest engineer Laura Lagos Abarzuza, member of the group of experts in wild equids of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), concludes, from official data, that during the construction and operation of the wind farm will invade the area of campeo of at least five of these stud farms, that is, the space through which these wild horses pass and in which they find food and shelter to defend themselves from the attacks of the wolf and insects.
The installation of wind turbines "means depriving them of part of their resources: habitats where they can feed themselves, springs where they can drink, high places where they can protect themselves from insects", explains the study by the researcher at the University of A Coruña. To reach this conclusion, Lagos Abarzuza has crossed the coordinates where the wind farm will be located with the GPS tracking carried out last July to 11 mares by a research group in which the Xunta and the University of Coruña participate. .
The population of brave horses in these Galician mountains has not stopped falling since the late nineties, when, according to neighbors, there were 700. They are free but they all have an owner, who is bound by the legislation to put a chip and pay insurance. Most, about 220, are from the Association A Rapa das Bestas and the rest, from individuals, and in recent times their life has become complicated. Some of their favorite spots have been converted into pastures restricted to cows and, after being displaced, they have invaded private farms occasionally to the outrage of their owners. The report of Lagos Abarzuza warns that the occupation of the summits with mills will push the herds downhill, reason why "it is foreseen that this problematic intensifies".
The developer of the park started the paperwork before the Autonomous Administration eight years ago, but it was last February when the Government of Alberto Núñez Feijóo gave it the final acceleration. He declared it "a project of special interest", a category that the Xunta has just created with strong criticism from the opposition and the environmental movement and that simplifies and shortens the processing of certain business projects. The Ministry of the Environment gave its approval four months later with an environmental impact statement that devotes to the wild horses two brief and indirect allusions, referring to the days of July when A Rapa das Bestas is celebrated and the horses are driven to the village down the mountain for the party.
The Ministry of Economy, Industry and Emprego wields that the approval of the project "has the required technical, legal and environmental guarantees" and with a dozen favorable reports from agencies of the Xunta, of the three municipalities where it will be implemented, by Retegal and by the State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA). In A Estrada, the municipality where A Rapa is celebrated, the popular mayor José López Campos has refused to give his opinion on the wind farm.
Endesa, for its part, argues that the "compatibility" of both uses for the mountain "is proven" and declares itself willing to "listen" to the farmers and study the corrective measures proposed by the scientific report of the Rapa das Bestas Association. The study calls for Canadian steps on the slopes, to preserve the hydrological dynamics of springs and sources and to monitor the herds to see how to improve their protection after the construction of the wind farm.
The horses of Sabucedo are special for Galicia and the world for its environmental, cultural and tourist value. They fulfill an important function to preserve the fragile ecological balance of these Galician mountains, where they are in charge of "modeling" habitats of community interest such as heaths, they serve as "main prey" to the wolves and reduce the forest biomass and the risk of fires, highlights Lagos Abarzuza. But they are also known since time immemorial as the "herd of the saint" and star in a Festival of International Tourist Interest, A Rapa das Bestas, which every July brings together 30,000 people.
The association that organizes the party and takes care of the horses has presented an appeal against the final authorization to the wind farm issued by the Ministry of Economy on August 30. It exposes the "disastrous consequences" that the mills will have for the beasts, for the landscape, for the cultural heritage and for tourism development of the village of Sabucedo and complains of "defenselessness" because their allegations to the project were not even answered. And warns of the existence of two other wind projects for the mountains that inhabit the beasts (the Touriñán II and the Serra de Cabanelas), which could join the seven parks of 264 wind turbines that are already operating nearby.
After years of paralysis of the sector in Galicia, the Feijóo government has opened a fast processing path to put into operation 18 wind farms before 2020, through a law that the opposition has dubbed the "Law of Predation". Among these projects is the one of Pico Touriñán that worries the neighbors of Sabucedo (Pontevedra) and two others in Paradela (Lugo), in the Ribeira Sacra region that chooses World Heritage, which will modify the landscape seen by the pilgrims that cross the Camino de Santiago between Sarria and Portomarín.
The 27 wind turbines that add up the two Paradela parks (called Serra das Penas and Paradela), a municipality that does not reach 1,900 inhabitants, will surround the O'Foilebar rural tourism house managed by Xan Valcárcel. "They are going to sink my business", he laments, "everyone goes to one side of my house and I will have a mill at 600 meters and another at something more than one kilometer". Valcárcel has been fighting against these projects since 2004 in the courts (he managed to reduce the number of wind turbines), he has presented a hundred allegations before the Xunta and has promoted several signature collections. He is convinced that "tourism in Paradela, the Way of St. James and the Ribeira Sacra" will be annoyed and criticizes that the Xunta has accelerated them so that they are approved before this region is declared a Site of Cultural Interest.
The mayor, the popular José Manuel Mato, who has been in office for almost 40 years, disagrees with Valcárcel and argues that the projects will bring "wealth" to Paradela through taxes, the payment of licenses and the money received by landowners. . Both are promoted by Endesa, but the City Council participates with 10% of the shares in the park named after the municipality.