The Port Authority, ignoring advice from professional bodies, appointed Sacyr to carry out the dredging at the cost of €2 million and then dump all the contaminated mud one nautical mile beyond Cala Rafalet without treating the toxic waste. They claimed to have tested the water properly but appear not to have included the most toxic area.
From tests conducted in January 2013, International Marine Advocacy Group Oceana identified 260 species on and around the sandy seabed where the polluted mud is to be dumped. These included two protected sponge species and the violet heart-urchin, one of the main preys of the European lobster which has the highest economic value for Menorca’s small-scale fishing fleet. as well as other species of commercial interest such as octopus, cuttlefish and red scorpionfish. A spokesperson for Oceana in Europe stated: “The dumping of the dredging waste will kill most of these ecosystems, as the seabed flora and fauna will die under this mud and the home of commercially and environmentally significant species will disappear…endangering fishing in Maó and people’s health.”
In association with Menorca’s conservationist organisation GOB (Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa), various protests took place along the Port (where a minute’s silence was observed for the death of marine life) and at Sant Lluís Ayuntamiento. Here, Punta Prima residents voiced their anger at the Port Authority’s high-handed action and the apparent indifference of other authorities who appeared not to understand the gravity of the problem.
On 26 March, the Port Authority announced that they had received an Order from the Balearic Public Prosecutor to delay the work as a precautionary measure while the Public Prosecutor assesses that due diligence on the tests is carried out. This followed GOB’s denouncement to Seprona, the service for the protection of the natural environment under the Guardia Civil. Although the Order is only for holding up the work, nevertheless, it represents a victory for all those who are very concerned about the effects the deliberate dumping of contaminated mud would have on people swimming in the area, marine life, Maó’s fishing community and, indeed, tourism. GOB will continue to deal with this issue until a definite promise is secured to make sure the toxic waste is decontaminated.
‘Axi No!’ Protest Walk Against New Roundabouts
Local residents will be aware of the black and white logos with ‘Aixi No!’ written in a circle, meaning ‘Not This Way’, which are being stuck up on roundabouts, on the back of cars and shop windows etc. They are in protest against the proposals for eight enormous roundabouts to be constructed between Mahon and Ciutadella along the Me1 as part of major improvements to Menorca’s central highway, at a cost of around 33 million euros. While some of the road works are necessary, these proposed double level roundabouts are considered quite out of proportion to the size and needs of the island. Between Mahón and Alaior there would be one every few kilometres, the same from Ferreries to Ciutadella and, no doubt, between Alaior and Ferreries. At 90 metres wide, these would have a serious impact on the countryside and, visually, on sites of historic importance, affecting Menorca’s unique character and its status as a Reserve of the Biosphere. GOB has put forward its objections and alternative suggestions, in particular to the plans for massive road alterations and a roundabout near the entrance to the prehistoric site of Sa Naveta des Tudons, which is an important tourist attraction.
Many groups and individuals have been taking part in protest walks organised by GOB, the latest being a two-day walk between Ciutadella and Mahon on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May 2013. (Please note, the date of this has changed from being a one day event on 21 April). It will take place over the two days in relays, rather like the protest walk last summer ‘Walk for the Minorca we love’ which was to express disagreement with the intentions to relax the PTI, thus allowing building in previously protected country areas. The Ciutadella – Mahon walk will finish outside the Consell Insular offices at the Plaça Bisofera in Mahon, where the manifesto will be presented. Everyone’s support is needed and welcomed, so why not join in on one or both of the days…? (Photo shows computer generated image of a proposed roundabout).
The complete walk is 49 kms and will pass through the main towns as indicated below, but you can join and leave wherever you like. Walkers are advised to wear a reflective jacket as well as suitable and comfortable waking shoes and take some water and a cap or hat. As it is a roadside walk, all children must be accompanied by an adult.
The walk will start on Saturday 11 May at the Plaça del Born in Ciutadella. There will be a relief period at the Castillo de sa Costa Nova. Then, on to Ferreries where the walkers will stop for a while for a lunch break, departing at 15.30 hours to arrive in Es Mercadal at about 17.45 hours then on to Alaior to arrive about 20.00 hours. On the second day, Sunday 12 May, the group will leave Alaior from the Plaça Constitució at 09.00 hours. There will be a second meeting point (for those who wish to walk less) at the Polideportivo in Mahón at 11.15 hours. From there the walkers will proceed via the Esplanada and on to the Plaça Biosfera in front of the Consell Insular, where they will hand in their petition. Over 2,000 people have signed a petition to state their disapproval.
Energy Saving Solar Panels
GOB has a campaign to facilitate the installation of solar panels for the domestic heating of hot water. This initiative is in conjunction with companies who provide the panels, specially designed for the climate and winds of Menorca, as well as a bank for finance, if needed. They design the installation to suit your individual needs and help with each stage to ensure the quality and efficiency of the work.
This campaign is to help with the economy by providing work and to help save energy and decrease the current huge dependency on oil and electricity. If every family in Menorca were to use solar panels for heating their water, it is estimated that would be the equivalent of one month’s electricity supply to the island from GESA. Not only would this campaign be a boost to the local economy in providing work, it would also contribute to the tourist image of Menorca as a Reserve of the Biosphere.
For more information about the diverse work GOB undertakes for the environment, visit: www.gobmenorca.com, or you can visit their offices in the restored windmill at Moli del Rey, 53 Camí des Castell, Mahon. Telephone: 00 34 971 35 07 62.
With thanks to Chita Laurie for this article.