Coiste Timpeallachta Ghaoth Bearra, the Gweebarra Conservation Group, is organising the ‘Gather at the Gweebarra!’ on the Gweebarra Bridge from 11.00am to 2.00pm on Saturday, July 10th, 2010 to object to the planned threats to our local environment and our health.
The Gweebarra River Valley, Bay and the surrounding townlands is a unique landscape which supports many protected species and habitats. These include wild deer and salmon, a 500 strong common seal population and several protected bird species like Golden Eagles, Northern Bullfinches, Grouse and Corncrakes. As such the Gweebarra is an EU Designated Area of Conservation which means it is supposed to be protected by law from developments which would have a negative environmental impact.
However the Gweebarra, its unique environment and its people, are now under threat from metal prospectors, high voltage power lines and industrial wind farms which carry health concerns for the local community and would impact negatively on their livelihoods and homes.
In 2009 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission to ESB and Eirgrid to erect a high voltage power line across Special Areas of Conservation and protected habitats in 100 townlands, including across the Gweebarra River. Local environmentalists have been campaigning for over a decade to have alternatives to the high voltage power line being erected across country and over ground.
They have argued from the outset that this power line is not to bring power into Donegal but is to take it out from the many existing and planned wind farms in the county.
Donegal already produces more wind energy than any other county in Ireland at 264MW but the State plans to increase wind energy production in Donegal to 690MW+, representing a land grab of over 3,000 hectares, which will mean that virtually every hill top in Donegal will be covered in wind turbines and the pylons and high voltage power lines needed to run them.
How can excavating bog land and pouring 240 metres of concrete (40 lorry loads) for EACH wind turbine into holes on the top of mountains and in Special Areas of Conservation be called ‘green’? This practice, together with the pollution created in the manufacture of concrete, releases more C02 into the atmosphere than the turbines will ever offset. Wind energy is a ‘green’ fallacy and we cannot allow the power and wind companies to destroy Donegal’s scenery and endanger our health solely for their profit at our expense.
In March, 2010 Eamon Ryan, Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, granted a prospecting license in 50 townlands around the Gweebarra, including the River bed and in the Bay, to Mytillus Minerals Ltd. If metals are found, cyanide could be used to extract the metals in open cast mines which would pollute the river, local lakes and household wells. The Gweebarra region would be decimated if mining were allowed to be added to the list of environmental threats.
Tourism is Donegal’s No.1 employer and with unemployment at 30% nothing should be allowed to threaten the County’s growing tourism economy. The human impact is too great for the local residents whose health would be in danger and who would have their land and property devalued by between 30% and 80% by being within view of the power line and the wind turbines respectively.
The Gweebarra Conservation Group are asking ‘Why are the wind and electricity companies allowed to break the laws protecting the environment while the rest of us must abide by them? And why should the people of South West Donegal be forced to bear the burden of producing more than half the projected wind energy production in Ireland by 2020?’
This is an environmental injustice which is illegal under International Law. Local residents and those who use the amenity of the River and the Bay are urged to attend the ‘Gather at the Gweebarra!’ on July 10th at 11.00am. We intend to stay until 2.00pm so come along for even 15 minutes to show your support.
You can also support the group on Facebook – see http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gweebarra-Conservation-Group/109990765695673 
Contact the Gweebarra Conservation Group on 087 964 3788 or by emailing GweebarraConservation@gmail.com