Dredging of Mahón Port
The decision by the Port Authority to dredge the end of Mahón port and deposit the waste beyond Cala Rafalet caused public outcry due to the harmful impact this might have both on people and the marine environment. Attempts to have this potentially disasterous action stopped have been ongoing, including a series of protests last month, in March.
The reason for the dredging is to allow large ships sufficient draught when turning, although many people say that there is more than enough. The problem is that the area became contaminated in the 1960s and 1970s when it was used by the local costume jewellery businesses, in particular, for disposing of their industrial waste. This should never have been permitted as it caused high mercury and heavy metal (non degradable) contamination. GOB has been concerned about the poisonous state of the water for several years and tests have been carried out by the Spanish Institute of Oceonography which revealed unsafe levels of contamination.
It is twenty years since Menorca was given the UNESCO honorific of a Reserve of the Biosphere, and the island is now known internationally for its special environment with its unique ecologies. The Spanish Committee of the UNESCO Programme of Man and the Biosphere (MaB) and of the Spanish Network of Biospheres wrote in its December publication on the differences of these Biospheres. In particular it noted that Menorca has a special distinction in working for sustainable tourism. Menorca works with tourist enterprises to conserve its biodiversity and to create the tourist experience, “Know and enjoy Menorca as a Reserve of the Biosphere”. Not least is the conservation project to recover and regenerate the whole of Binimel-la to Cala Mica, one of the jewels of the north coast of Menorca, known for its virgin beaches and unspoilt hinterland. Some of their work involves fencing in areas suffering from erosion and restocking with autochthonous plants.
As part of the on-going efforts to safeguard the future of Menorca’s natural environment, back in the summer the Scouts of Menorca, together with conservationist organisation GOB (Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa) and over a thousand people, took part in the ‘Walk for the Menorca we love’ campaign around the island’s Camí de Cavalls. Thousands more signed a petition which was presented to the Consell Insular asking for clarification about their proposed changes to building laws that affect Menorca’s planning regulations or Plano Territorial Insular (PTI), and might threaten protected areas of high natural importance in the name of economic regeneration. For more information about the PTI, click here.
Development of protected areas would endanger Menorca’s ecosystem and its special status as a UNESCO Reserve of the Biosphere, as well as destroy many of the unique qualities that attract those tourists who want to enjoy Menorca’s unspoiled beauty. It is proven that the larger hotels, many of which are not owned by local businesses, and those providing all inclusive package holidays do not bring money to the island. GOB is now waiting for the island government’s ‘norma transitoria’ promised for after the summer which would show new proposals for planning permissions.
Wildlife is abundant in Menorca, attracting many visitors each year who come to marvel at the wonderful variety of wild animals, birds and reptiles living peacefully in their natural and unspoiled habitat, both inland and by the wetlands and sea. Menorca’s protected status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is one of its greatest assets.
The Recuperation Centre of Menorca
However, did you know the only facility that exists for looking after wild animals in Menorca is the Recuperation Centre in Ciutadella..? Managed by GOB (Grup Balear d’Ornitologia y Defensa de la Naturalesa), on behalf of the Balearic Government since it opened in 1998, the Centre has cared for some 13,500 sick animals that have been injured or are ill until they can be returned to nature. The Centre has been able to function due the generous help from volunteers, however there are many inevitable costs for medicines, surgical equipment etc. Also, protecting wild life is a governmental responsibility and a funding agreement was in place until 2010 which covered a substantial proportion of the running costs, the rest being made up from donations by institutions and businesses.
The ‘Vuelta a la Menorca que amamos’ or ‘Per sa Menorca que estimam’ (Walk for the Menorca we love) in demonstration against the proposed changes to laws governing Menorca’s territorial planning regulations has just taken place, the first stage being on Friday night, 29 June and Saturday night 1 July and the second on Friday night, 6 and Sunday night, 8 July 2012. Organised by the Scouts of Menorca and supported by GOB (Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa) and other groups, the initiative attracted over a thousand people in total who were keen to take part in the night walks to encircle the island along the Camí de Cavalls.
The event took the form of a relay covering 170 km and divided into 25 sections, with each leg carrying the manifesto held prominently on a flagpole. At each transfer point, the reasons were read out against the proposals by the Consell Insular to deregulate the planning laws of Menorca which would allow building in parts of the island that are of outstanding natural importance. The first relay of walks followed the ancient bridle path around the north coast from Sa Mesquida to Ciutadella, where at Son Saura (Son Parc) the group, including many tourists, stopped to make a chain along the entire beach. The second leg was around the south coast, finishing outside the Consell Insular in Maó to present the manifesto to the Consell President, Santiago Tadeo.
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