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The French, traditionally so good at revolting, seemed almost outnumbered by the Spanish as the crowd gathered in the Place Catalogne on Saturday March 1st. Banners were held high, noisy drumming, whistles and cries of “Non a la THT” vying with “No a la MAT” were heard from the large numbers of Catalunians, Northern and Southern, converging on the square. 10,000 according to the police, 15,000 the organiser’s estimate.
Dignitaries, such as our Senator Mayor Jean-Paul Alduy, Christian Bouquin, President of the Conseil General and Joan Puigcercos, Interior Minister of Catalogne Sud, mixed with groups of families, friends and local associations. Party political differences were (almost) put aside for the day. Many were carrying flags and home made slogans, all were united against the proposed double circuit 400,000 volt line to run from Baixas to Bescano.
Since the early 1980s when France agreed to sell electricity to Spain, the proposed route has been pushed further and further south, each menaced region managing to defend its territory, till, inevitably, Catalunya, both North and South, has fallen under threat. The RTE (Reseau de Transport d’Electricite) would like to sling its very high tension line across the Pyrenees to the detriment of our environment and with serious health risks for anyone living beneath it. The Non a la THT (Tres Haut Tension) and No a la MAT (Molt Alta Tensio) have been fighting tooth and nail to prevent this happening.
It was a good natured crowd, some in Catalan costume, many with sandwiches, one group with a donkey, that assembled before Les Dames de France on Saturday morning. From time to time the jets of water that spring from the pavement in front of the FNAC were activated. No one was seriously drenched, indeed it caused was much laughter. Eventually the demonstration moved off along a well policed route. From time to time human pyramids were formed, shaped like pylons, and the procession halted to applaud them. There was plenty of time to admire the varying styles of architecture of the grand apartment blocks along the Boulevard Georges Clemenceau, the ancient plane trees and hotels along Boulevard Wilson, the delightful private houses as one turned up hill before curving past the Cathedral St Jacques and passing the lively Arab market on Place Cassaynes. By midday several demonstrators could be seen to slip away, presumably to refresh themselves in the many delightful lunchtime restaurants, bars and cafes with which Perpignan is so blessed. However most ignored their lure, and continued steadfastly on the long circuit leading to Le Castillet where rousing speeches were made …….
If the forces of high finance must be pandered to (and one fears they will be), and France’s electricity must be fed via Spain to North Africa, it seems unbelievable that the line could not have been buried deeply and safely underground at the same time as the TGV line was making its great gash across our landscape. But then whenever did municipal gas, drains and cables ever get laid simultaneously? One has only to think of the constant patchwork of road works in most communes to realise that that would be far too simplistic a solution.
It seems that the powers that be, or could be, are only too happy to wash their hands of all responsibility. They all, French and Spanish, claim it is now a matter for “Europe” to decide. Let Brussels take the blame. In the evening the manif made the national as well as the local news. But then the French do love a revolting tale.
It made the Sunday papers too. All who live in and love the PO should see www.collectif-nonalatht.com to help prevent the proposed desecration of our patrimoine.