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“The environmental bomb in the heart of Galicia” that Portugal does not want |  environment

“The environmental bomb in the heart of Galicia” that Portugal does not want | environment

Altri Participaciones y Trading, SL, a company specializing in the production of cellulose pulp and eucalyptus forest crops for the wood and paper industry, announced in 2022 its intention to formulate cellulose textile fibers and dissolved plant fibres. The new unit will occupy an area of ​​366 hectares and is scheduled to convert up to 1.2 million cubic meters of eucalyptus wood of this type. Eucalyptus spherical that it Knights Eucalyptus.

Due to its size and objectives, the project has received strong opposition from residents of the municipalities of Melide and Santiso (A Coruña), Agulada (Pontevedra) and Palas de Rey (Lugo) who will be affected by the infrastructure associated with the new project. factory. Five Spanish environmental organizations (Amigas da Terra, Ecologists en Acción, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife, and WWF) joined the residents' protests and, on March 20, sent a written proposal to the Minister of Energy Transition and Environment, Teresa Ribera, and the Minister of Industry, Jordi Herrio, competing for Factory installation.

The lawsuit has been ongoing since 2021, when the Galician junta, led by Alberto Nunez Viejo, the current leader of the Spanish Popular Party, announced that Altri would set up a huge factory to produce plant fibers intended for textiles. Which will provide work for 2,500 people.

In July 2023, the change of ownership of the project was approved and the promoter company became the subsidiary Greenfiber SL, owned by Altri (75%) and Greenalia (25%).

The new plant “will have a total final production capacity of 400,000 tons of melted cellulose per year, and 200,000 tons of lyocell (vegetable textile fibres),” Manuel dos Santos, spokesman for Greenpeace Galicia, told PÚBLICO.

The area chosen by Altri to install the project will affect several natural areas of the Natura 2000 network and will be close to the Special Protection Zone (ZEC) of the Serra do Carrion, which “has not yet been acquired”, but the president of the area has announced the Autonomous Military Junta of Galicia ( JAG, Alfonso Rueda, has already expressed the possibility of moving towards the “expropriation” of the land where the new plant is planned to be built, Greenpeace spokesman highlights.

The project has been declared a strategic industrial enterprise (PIE) because it is an initiative that is “unique across Europe”, in which “over 800 million euros” will be invested, highlighting Official Gazette of Galicia (DOG), in a statement dated February 20, 2024.

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Environmentalists vs

In an area that reveals enormous environmental sensitivity, converting 1.2 million cubic meters (m3) of eucalyptus wood will release emissions of “sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide through the factory’s 75-metre-high chimney”. carbon And various particles of hazardous substances,” say environmentalists.

The project also involves the use of water resources, “because the volume of water it requires is enormous,” Manuel dos Santos highlighted, recalling that Altri has already asked Águas da Galiza to collect 46,000 cubic meters (m3/day) of water. And a license to discharge 30,000 cubic meters per day of treated wastewater into the Ula River for 75 years. “This is what devours the entire province of Lugo or a city with a population of 350,000,” without taking into account future scenarios. Climate change“, which “everything indicates will reduce water availability,” highlights a Greenpeace spokesperson.

Residents of the municipalities neighboring the project fear the consequences of the production of cellulose and textile fibers on water lines that will benefit from debts used in industrial activity. “We're going to have a huge one Environmental impact And social and economic with the release of wastewater into the Ola River after being exposed to polluting industrial and industrial purification processes. He warns the affected fishing communities that the river “already presents high levels of pollution and flows into the mouth of the Arosa River, one of the great economic lungs of Galicia due to the importance of the fishing sector.”

This set of circumstances would ultimately be “an environmental bomb in the heart of Galicia that Portugal does not want.” The accusation was made by Ulala Rodil, deputy of the Galician National Bloc (BNG), the largest opposition party in the Galician Parliament, during a press conference held on March 21, to denounce the Portuguese company’s demand to support the project by 25%. Publicly funded by the Spanish state. In the documents submitted, “Altri states that the investment will be in the region of 900 million euros, which is why it requests between 200 and 250 million euros,” confirms Manuel dos Santos, highlighting another fact that could be decisive for the completion of the project. : “The company wants access to European next generation funds.”

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An official source from Greenfiber, SL told PÚBLICO that the latest studies and estimates carried out to prepare the project indicate that the investment that will be applied “will exceed 850 million and support from the central government is expected in the range of 25 million% of the total investment,” stressing that the company “Do not move forward” unless financing from European funds is guaranteed.

The company rejects the arguments expressed by opponents of the project regarding the effects of the new industrial unit on ecosystems. “The plant activities that Greenfiber, SL intends to launch in Galicia do not pose any risk to people, animals or the environment, as the project was designed with a high level of environmental requirements.” It also states that there will be “strict compliance with European, Spanish and Galician standards.”

He highlights the standards the company is committed to following regarding water use: “It will be purified before being returned to the environment, ensuring that it will be in the same conditions or even better in some parameters, and the process also requires high-quality water. By maintaining water quality, the flora and fauna of the Ola River and the oyster banks of the Arosa Estuary will not be affected. The pre-treatment “ensures that the concentration of particles will be so low that the impact on the atmosphere and health is zero,” says the Greenfiber, SL source.

But the BNG deputy does not accept the explanations provided by Greenfiber, SL, claiming that the construction of the plant will cause “serious damage to the entire Ulla river basin” and that it will not only affect the Palas de Rei – the site where the project will be implemented. planned – but also other municipalities such as Agulada, Santiso, Melide and the mouth of the Arosa River, where the Olla River flows.

“That is why we will launch an offensive to defend the land, the Olla River and the mouth of the Arosa River” and submit proposals to the municipal bodies affected by the cellulose plant, in the Parliament of Galicia, in the Spanish Senate, as well as in the European Parliament. Olalla Rodel said, highlighting that there are alternatives “to the colonial model that is to be installed and, above all, supported by public money to place an environmental bomb in the heart of Galicia, which is what Portugal does not want.”

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A report by the Galician Cultural Council (CCG), consulted by PÚBLICO, warns of an “absolutely destructive model of exploitation”, based on species of the genus Eucalyptus And in the Galician region.

He highlights that the space occupied by this exotic culture in the Iberian Peninsula “exceeds that of other European countries.” Thus, the area cultivated with these species in Spain and Portugal extends to about 1,480,000 hectares, while the rest of the European countries occupy about 100,000 hectares, highlights the report, highlighting the finding: “It is not surprising that in Spain and Portugal there is a social Big in Spain and Portugal.” Concern about the environmental impacts of this type of crop.

He explains their effects on ecosystems: “Massive forest plantations are carried out using heavy machinery that removes soil at great depths. Heavy machinery enters the land, both during cultivation and when cutting and removing wood, and on many occasions causes irreparable damage to cultural heritage,” the CCG report analyzes.

On March 25, Galicia's union of industries CCOO issued a statement demanding “rationality and dialogue” so that a project could be implemented that “will generate a lot of jobs in the region” and “will increase wood prices.” It was paid to “100,000 forest owners in an area that already has 650,000 hectares of eucalypts under cultivation.”

Manuel dos Santos points to the constant flow of eucalyptus wood between Galicia and northern Portugal. “It is very likely that Altri's choice of Galicia was due to the fact that the Galician government revealed itself to be more lenient in eucalyptus cultivation than the Portuguese, who restricted cultivation more after the Pedrogão Grande fires.”

The new manufacturing unit “will use raw materials (eucalyptus wood) from the forests of Galicia,” highlights Greenfiber, SL, which has not yet started construction of the new plant and does not yet have the land necessary to do so. Its acquisition depends on a public financing guarantee of approximately 250 million euros.

Meanwhile, a group of technicians from the pulp company, led by project manager Bruno Dapina, held information sessions for residents of the affected municipalities, but were met with strong protests, ending with a repeated cry: “Tri, no! Tri, no!