The European representatives ask the petitioners if agriculture is compatible with the Mar Menor and are “very surprised” at the presentations of the social groups
The delegation of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, which inaugurated a busy agenda of meetings in the Region this Wednesday to learn about the situation of the Mar Menor, was “very surprised” at the presentations of social groups on the causes of degradation environment of the lagoon, as reported by the participants.
After hearing the impressions of the petitioners and the regional government, the president of the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament, the Latvian Tatjana Zdanoka, from the Green Group, explained that when the European mission’s three-day visit to the region is over, they will draft a report “on all the activities we have carried out” and, more importantly, a recommendation “with a series of actions and concrete measures” that will be put to the vote after the amendments are presented. “It will be the most useful to be able to resolve a pollution situation as catastrophic as the one suffered in the Mar Menor,” she said.
Zdanoka recalled that the Commission of the European Parliament has petitions in the case of the Mar Menor since 2016 and that, if a visit has not been made before, it has been due to the situation derived from the health crisis.
Previously, in the meeting with the petitioners, the European mission listened to the explanations of the six organizations and citizens who have submitted requests related to the degradation of the Mar Menor in the European Parliament. Some claims to which they were “very receptive”, revealed those attending the meeting, among whom were representatives of environmental associations in the Region such as Ecologists in Action and Anse, the coordinator of the United Left-Greens, José Luis Álvarez-Castellano, among others.
Search for the source of the problem
The Committee on Petitions asked about two fundamental questions. The first, if the groups are sure that agriculture has been to blame for the nitrate contamination that has degraded the ecosystem; the second, after the petitioners pointed out and showed data, videos and photographs on this matter, was how it is possible that the degeneration has occurred without the corresponding control. “They are surprised, but I am also surprised,” said the coordinator of Izquierda Unida-Los Verdes, José Luis Álvarez-Castellanos, at the exit of the meeting.
The European representatives also wanted to know if the economic activity of agriculture is compatible with the protection of the lagoon. A question to which the petitioners answered yes, as long as a sustainable model is chosen, where the extension of crops is reduced and the intensive irrigation activity in the surroundings of Campo de Cartagena is ended.
The director of Anse, Pedro García, pointed out that the commission asked “what do we expect and what proposals are there.” «My feeling is that it is another small step to recover the Mar Menor; We have to take advantage of all the instruments that have been and will be available to change this », he affirmed. “There has been a fairly attentive listening, with the exception of Jorge Buxadé, from Vox, who has dedicated himself to saying that we were demonizing agriculture, when it is not real.”
“Each one has given their opinion,” said Buxadé. “The fundamental question has been what measures are proposed to solve the situation, but with the groups that were there today, I think we will have to wait for other phases with more interesting participants.”
“We have explained that there is a struggle of interests where the regional administration, which is responsible for preventing environmental damage in the lagoon, has positioned itself alongside the economic interests of a group of agricultural companies, and there is the former councilor Cerdá prosecuted”, assured the coordinator of Izquierda Unida-Los Verdes, José Luis Álvarez-Castellanos.
The meeting started at 11 in the morning in the Calblanque room of the Murcian hotel. «It is paradoxical that the first visit made for an environmental problem is made in such an emblematic place, taking into account that Calblanque wanted to urbanize. I still have the photographs with the design of the urbanization and nobody remembers anymore, ”said the director of Anse.
“We have pointed out the sources of the problem and we have asked the commission to commit and monitor and control all the aid that may come from Europe so that they are effectively used to recover the Mar Menor,” stressed the spokesman for the Pact for the Mar Menor. Ramon Pagan. “We have told them that the recovery of the Mar Menor is possible as long as action is taken now and measures are taken at the source, not at the end of the pipeline,” he added.
As companions of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, the Spanish MEPs Marcos Ros, from the PSOE; as well as Jorge Buxadé, from Vox; Soraya Rodríguez, from Ciudadanos; and Sira Rego, from the Left group. The PP MEP and president of the Petitions Committee, Dolors Montserrat, was absent due to the crisis unleashed within her party, although she will join the visit on Thursday. Everyone agreed on her wish that this visit be “the turning point” in the recovery of the Mar Menor.
Ros considered “it is very important that when making a report on this visit, the deputies who are not from the land like I am, may have set foot on the shores of the Mar Menor and confirm that this environmental disaster has to end and it has to be start the path of regeneration.
For her part, Sira Rego asked that responsibilities be resolved in the face of the degradation suffered by the ecosystem. “Today we have seen an image of how the Mar Menor is and the situation is dramatic,” she said. A bill that cannot be passed, Jorge Buxadé said, only “to the farmers and ranchers of the Campo de Cartagena and the entire Region of Murcia.” For the MEP, the visit should highlight “the lack of pipes, of the facilities, the neglect for decades of the administrations, both popular and socialist, which are the ones that have caused the situation.” For her part, the representative of Ciudadanos, María Soraya Rodríguez, emphasized the urgent need for the “responsible collaboration of all administrations.”
Luengo calls for more scientific involvement from the EU in solving the lagoon’s problems
In the afternoon, the regional government detailed to the EU Petitions Commission displaced to the Region of Murcia the plans and strategies that it has on the table for the recovery of the Mar Menor, among which it cited the comprehensive management strategy for areas coastal areas, the Zero Discharge plan, among others.
The Minister of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and the Environment, Antonio Luengo, pointed out that after a meeting that began at 3:30 p.m. and lasted for more than an hour, the technicians of his department were able to explain to the European envoys “how a concrete way, what are the main actions that the regional government is carrying out for the recovery of the Mar Menor”, among which he highlighted the removal of biomass and boats, the construction of bioreactors, the repair of sanitation networks and the investment in research and development.
The Commission asked the regional government about the management of European funds for the recovery of the ecosystem, to which the regional government replied with a review of “the degree of execution” of the different items.
On the other hand, the Luengo requested greater involvement, not only economically, but also “in the contribution of scientific knowledge that helps in the monitoring and control of the different actions that are carried out” in the lagoon. He also informed the delegation of the Committee on Petitions of the “important turning point” that marked the start of coordinated work between the national and regional governments after the last episode of fish mortality this summer.
«I have to assess the reaction as very positive. They have been grateful for the effort and the degree of precision that the technicians have reached,” said Luengo.
The Commission, reported Luengo, also asked the Government of the Region of Murcia in a “clear and concise” manner in what time frame it believes that the results of the measures underway will begin to be seen. “We have regretted that we have been wasting three years with the Zero Discharge plan,” explained the counselor. They also talked about the contributions of contaminated water from the Rambla del Albujón and the problem of the water table.