Environment

Articles in ‘Environment’

Tourism in Spain under threat

March 27th, 2009

Spain is currently the world’s second-biggest tourist destination after France, with the population of 45 million being bolstered every year by as many as 60 million foreign visitors, 80% of whom flock to the coasts. Tourism contributes more than 11 per cent of Spain’s GDP and employs more than two million people. These figures are going to fall in the next few years because of the economic crisis, but the sector faces a much greater long-term threat, that of climate change. According to the Fundación Empresa y Clima “the changes are going to be far more drastic than those caused by the current economic crisis”. Impact are likely to include higher temperatures, loss of beaches due to sea level rise, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems, the reduction of water resources and the increase in forest fires. El Mundo

Meanwhile, the EU has delivered a stinging criticism of Spain’s property laws, allowing urban sprawl and corruption, voting overwhelmingly to freeze hundreds of millions of euros in Spain’s EU funding if the Spanish government does not tackle what the parliament condemned as “extensive urbanisation” practices. BBC

And again, the long-term prospects for the traditional Spanish tourist industry may not be rosy. Over-development of the country’s coasts has seen them lose their much of their appeal for tourists. Some statistics:

  • In the six years between 2000 and 2006, urban development within the first two kilometers of the coast of Huelva increased by 48.1 percent.
  • Urban sprawl in Valencia increased by 53.1 percent. In just six years, concrete was blighting one out of every 10 previously untouched kilometers of Valencia’s coastline.
  • In Alicante and in the Andalusian province of Málaga, more than half of the first two kilometers of coast are under concrete. In Barcelona, just 32 percent of the coastline remains undeveloped. Across Spain, coastal urban sprawl has increased by 22 percent in just six years.

La Comunidad Valenciana construyó un 10% de su costa en sólo seis años (EL País)

Threat to important birding site in Extremadura

October 22nd, 2008

The area around Sierra Brava Reservoir and Casas de Hitos is one of the most important wintering area for cranes, waterfowl and steppe birds in Extremadura. It is now under threat from the proposed building of several thermosolar power stations, which it appears could very easily be sited elsewhere. As Clive points out on the forum. “It is important to note that the problem here is not the new technology itself for energy production but the poorly researched situation of the proposed plan”. See also SEO’s page in English on this story.

SEO note

  • This will suppose the direct occupation of more than 300 hectares of land, directly on the principal winter roost of the common crane in Europe, with 11,325 cranes registered there last year.
  • Those two solar power plants also include a natural gas combustion unit each, to maintain the energy production during cloudy days, which will suppose the installation of both tall chimneys for the evacuation of waste gases and of cooling towers.
  • In order to be able to use the energy produced, both power stations will share an electrical substation and a new high voltage power line more than 38 km in lengh, to connect with the grid at Valdecaballeros, and which will affect the entire Vegas Altas del Guadiana zone, including two SPAs.

Martin kelsey of Birding Extremadura has brought this to the attention of iberianature so thanks to him, and he has drafted the following series of letters for you to get in contact with the authorities in Extremadura. Revenue from birding tourism now represents quite a fair of amount for Extremadura and the more people that contest this, the more the Extremaduran authorities are likely to rethink such a poorly planned scheme. Read the rest of this entry

Asturian coast still wild

January 8th, 2008

In its excellent series on the state of the Spanish coast today El País looks at the coast of Asturias, which thanks to protection, has so far, on the whole, escaped the ravages of tourist development. But 60,000 new homes are planned. Since 1883 it has been illegal to build within 500m of the coastline. El Pais. More on Asturias here

san lorenzo beach

Five years today since the Prestige disaster

November 13th, 2007

Today, the 13th November, is five years since the Prestige disaster. El Pais reminds us that nobody has yet been tried for this.

prestige clean-up

Some key facts

  • The spill is the largest environmental disaster in Spain’s history.
  • 64,000 tons of fuel oil were spilled in the incident
  • The cost of the clean-up to the Galician coast alone is estimated at €2.5 billion
  • The World Wildlife Fund estimated that 300,000 seabirds died. A study published this month (Nov 2007) shows that hydrocarbons are still present in the seabird chicks (El Mundo)
  • Seafood industry was halted along much of Galicia’s coast
  • WWF warn of the possibility of other “Prestiges” today and notes three oil spills in Spain this year Sierra Nava (Algeciras), Don Pedro (Ibiza) and Samothraki (Gibraltar) WWF

See also “The largest environmental disaster in Spanish history began during a fierce storm off Galicia’s Coast of Death, la Costa da Morte, on 13th November 2002, as the Prestige oil tanker was sailing from Latvia to Gibraltar, to its ultimate destination of Singapore.” (Typically Spanish) + More on the Prestige oil spill (wikipedia)

Building freeze on Balearic coastline

November 8th, 2007

The Guardian reports today:

“The Balearic islands are to freeze all construction along the most delicate parts of coastlines and around the islands’ capitals, which have been blighted by property developments since mass tourism first arrived in Spain in the 60s. The plan, set to be announced tomorrow, will come into force immediately in an effort to save some of the most beautiful coastlines on the islands of Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca, from further development.” Read on the Guardian

See also “Medio siglo de éxito del turismo de masas y de élite, más el urbanismo salvaje reciente, han dejado su huella de hormigón sobre buena parte del paisaje costero. Pero la mayor parte del perfil insular, de 1.428 kilómetros, no ha sido explotada: está casi intacta, a salvo del desarrollismo que dejó inaccesible, sin uso público, muchas decenas de kilómetros.” Paraíso y caos en la costa balear (El Pais) “

News roundup 1

October 18th, 2007

Here’s a new section with brief descriptions and feeds to news articles which because of time, interest and space I haven’t written about in more detail.

  • Latest lynx bulletin with details of all the breeding facilities under construction (Programa ex-situ pdf)
  • 500 animals killed in a year along a single road crossing Doñana, including two lynxes (Consumer)
  • Bunkering, the refueling of tankers in the Straits of Gibraltar, causing a “silent” oil slick. (Consumer)
  • Invasion of American plant Baccharis halimifolia,a serious threat to Urdaibai wetlands (El Pais)
  • Ski project in Sierra Nevada a threat to birdlife (El Pais)
  • Cold winter predicted this year (Alfred Picó)
  • Castilla y León approves three golf courses in Villanueva de Gómez, Ávila, despite huge environmental impact. 7000 homes planned for village of 143 inhabitants.  (SEO

Forest fires in Spain at lowest level for ten years

September 8th, 2007

This year’s cool and damp summer in much of Spain has helped to bring forest fires down to their lowest level for 10 years, and 68% less than the 10-year average. August was distinctly cool in Castilla y León, Galicia and Asturias, and there were moderate temperatures in the rest with ample rain. Specifically, 26,951 hectares of “forest” were burnt compared in the first six months of the year compared to 68,673 last year, with the Canaries fire accounting for 77.5%. Perhaps improved fire-fighting measures have helped too. We shall see. More on fire in Spain and its causes

(El Pais)

Environmental groups slate Las Tablas de Daimiel and Los Humedales de La Mancha

September 6th, 2007

Several environmental groups (Ecologistas en Acción, WWF/Adena, Greenpeace and SEO/BirdLife) have called removal of protection of Las Tablas de Daimiel and Los Humedales de La Mancha faced with the utter failure of protection measures to save this once great Spanish wetland. They note that 60% of the wetlands of the Alto Guadiana have dried out and that the Tablas de Daimiel themselves, once covered 2,000 ha in summer and now down to 26. At clear fault is the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha which with EU money, and to the benefit of a few rich farmers, continues to permit over-use of the area’s aquifers, making it impossible for the wetlands to recover. (El Mundo – but why is this paper always silent, have you noticed, about criticisms of PP-led regions?)

Threat of desertification

August 31st, 2007

The United Nations Convention to Fight Desertification is to be held on September 3-4 in Madrid. Desertification threatens 36% of Spain: 2% of Spain suffers from extreme risk of desertification, with 15% having a high risk. Degraded soils cover a further 19%. Worst hit are the Canaries and the south-east,  and to a lesser much of the southern half of the Peninsula, the Ebro basin and southern Catalonia. Although some degradation may be blamed on climate change and natural processes, most areas are the result of fire, overgrazing, aquifer depletion and bad farming practices – human mismanagement. The Spanish government has called on the EU to set up a centre for desertification with its headquarters in Spain. Older material on desertification in Spain here

Map of risk of desertification in Spain (MMA)

Map of aridity in Spain

The most polluted sea in the world

July 23rd, 2007

The Mediterranean is the most polluted sea in the world according to various studies done by environmental groups. Pollution hotspots around Spain’s coats are unsurprisingly around the ports of Algeciras and Barcelona

El mar más sucio del mundo (El Pais)

I think we take that “sea” here means open sea, and so excludes bodies of water such as the inland Aral Sea.