Projet de centre d'enfouissement de déchets ultimes|
Une super décharge dans le Saint-Ponais ?
Rubbish tip threat
For two years the people of Saint Pons de Thomières and the surrounding area have been fighting plans to place a mega rubbish tip n the heart of the Natural Park of Upper Languedoc.
Last month some 150 people attended the official inauguration of Bégot-le-Milieu by the mayor of the commune of Riols (adjacent to the town of Saint Pons de Thomières).
Bégot-le-Milieu is not perhaps the grandest or most beautiful of settlements. Nestling in a mountain valley, it consists of two wooden cabins, about the size of largish beach-huts, erected on a wooden platform. In the clearing around it, the pioneers have planted a bed of roses-bushes.
Bégot, modest makeshift hamlet though it may be, is an important symbol. It has been erected as a place of vigil, from where the watch can be kept over the adjoining valley of Tanarès, threatened by a project to erect a monster rubbish-tip.
This project (subject of a prefectorial diktat) was originally intended for implementation by the end of 2002 but for two years the local people have been fighting to resist the proposals. So, the enthusiastic crowd at the inauguration were full of excited admiration. The mayor, resplendent in his tricolour sash, delivered a fine inaugural locution and, after a few further speeches, everyone enjoyed a picnic.
If implemented the project would bring to the region the rubbish of some two-thirds of the entire département (including the town of Béziers), at least 75,000 tons of the stuff per year to be ferried in by lorry from all points of the compass. This is an area that has few economic advantages, highly dependent upon what is called 'green' tourism.
The rubbish-dump poses a very real threat from every point of view - health, environment, local economy.
It will bring more heavy traffic to roads already overburdened by such juggernauts. Above all, there is the questionable wisdom of placing such a facility in the midst of a Natural Park in a region with a flora and fauna of exceptional interest lying as it does almost precisely at that point where two climates (the Atlantic and the Mediterranean) meet.
Over the last two years the association Patanarès ("Pas Tanarès"), representing the protestors, has organised countless events. There have been rallies, marches, concerts, visits to other sites and presentations of alternative more environmentally friendly methods of waste-disposal. The last major demonstration in June, after two years of struggle, was still able to assemble 2000 people (as large a number as the population of Saint Pons itself).
The weekend following the inauguration of Bégot, a concert ("Passaran Pas"), was held in the nearby mountain-side village of Mons-la-Trivalle, attracting crowds from all around the region.
There is an important issue of democracy involved in the dispute. In the French system, prefects, who are unelected government appointees, exercise very considerable powers within their jurisdictions.
In this case a decision has been imposed despite the opposition the people of the region and of its elected representatives.
At stake is the right of a population to determine its own destiny that is at stake.
The battle has not yet been won and so far the prefect refuses to give ground. But it has not yet been lost either and the people of the region are no less determined.
"An inhabitant of Bégot", the mayor informed his audience, "is apparently a Bégotais".
For the moment any development of the site is held up pending legal action but everyone in the Saint-Ponais and in the Hauts Cantons of Upper Languedoc is now a Bégotais and, should con-struction ever begin, the settlement of Bégot-le-Milieu will become the focus for continuing resistance.