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Island Ecology

Island Ecology

by José P Ribas

Mercury Rising

Enough Is Enough


Ibiza Ecology

Still two months to go, but we already know that most of our records have been beaten in this somehow foolish and chaotic summer.

G.E.S.A., the Gas and Electric Company that supplies all our energy from the oil-fuelled power station in Ibiza town has declared the maximum production ever for July and August.

That was just after two new turbines started working flat out to cover the demand of what was already built in the past two years.

Even this is not enough for today.

The demand continues, with two more new engines waiting to be operating, as soon as the needed depots for the new and more ecological oil get built.

New overhead electric lines had to be installed (they should be underground, but it's more expensive that way) raising up logic and bitter protests from the ecology groups, the owners of the land the lines are crossing and 90% of the population, without any success so far.

The Balearic community has also been leading the statistics in the purchase of new vehicles in the last years. In Ibiza, the number is almost as high as the native population (there are far more wheels than feet treading the island). Our roads have the highest fatal accident percentage of Spain and probably of all Europe. Parking in the city, when you need to, be either a VIP privilege, or else a miracle of biblical dimensions. The air pollution in town has increased 90% in the last fifteen years, so they've told us this week from the Environment Town Hall Office.

The marinas have no room at all for whatever size boats, at least for the summer months. Hundreds of them anchor around the islands every day, uncontrolled, mostly in reserved natural areas.

The water consumption has also reached top numbers in all the municipal districts (the weather doesn't help: the clouds seem to be on strike whenever they cross our sky).

The demand of it all gets larger every month. Over-salted wells have to be used to supply undrinkable water to important parts of the population; to cook and drink they have to buy bottled water that has to be brought from outside.

Water is, without doubt, one of our most serious problems and a real limitation for our society in terms of growth. To guarantee good quality water for the entire population today, or in the short term, billions of pesetas (British billions) will have to be spent, building up new reservoir deposits inland and also building a new all-over-island pipe-net (experts from the government say that about 30% of our fresh, pumped water gets wasted through an obsolete pipe-net system), enlarging the capacity of the desalination plants and inter-connecting them for a better profit of the production.

The depuration plants (judging from the rare aromas of Ibiza's summer nights, you wouldn't refer to them as such anywhere within a five-kilometre radius) and the whole drainage systems suffer the same problem: too old and too small to do the job. It only takes one or two hours of good rain and the streets of Ibiza look like Venice's channels, but it is not exactly gondolas that float on them.

Residual waste: what a real chaos! This is also an old and very big problem that has been "overlooked" by all the anterior governments, but now there is no more room to hide any more rubbish under the carpet.

It will take at least five years before it can be got under control. The estimated cost of all that must be done to solve the problem has been quoted at 11,000 million pesetas, according to the plans (Plan de Residuos Solidos Urbanos Eivissa-Formentera) already presented and approved by the Balearic Council and by the Eivissa Town Hall - though not by some of the local Town Halls of more conservative leanings. The results of this politicking have been detrimental for both residents and tourists.

There is one way that Ibicenco society does compare to the most advanced urban societies of the World (New York, Moscow, Bilbao, Palermo): our "Mafiosi," local and imported, are growing strong and healthy.

Some say that the "good times" we are going through are a sign of "progress".

The reason why I have chosen this week to write about all these unpleasant and not-to-be-mentioned problems is because at present our politicians are deciding the future of these islands.

The P.T.I. (Plan Territorial Insular), from whence the guidelines of our development will be established, is being negotiated between Ibiza's central Island Council and its six municipal districts.

The "PP" Town Halls do not want to respect any moratoria or any limitations on their building plans, though they have no answers or solutions what-so-ever for any of the old problems, not to mention the new ones. But they all agree that Ibiza's present ecological and social situation is unsustainable.

From the "Pacte" (i.e. left-wing) point of view, it is absolutely necessary to slow down - if not come to a full stop - with any new building for a while, at least until we can face and work out some of our most urgent problems.

Moratoria will have to be applied to licences already given by the town halls if they are not 100% in line with the actual Autonomic Laws (this means, among other things, guarantee of energy and water supply, already-built infrastructures, pavements, draining and depuration system, proper roads and parking for the new sites, control and collection of the residues, etc).

Also it will be necessary to cancel all the building licences that didn't respect the dates for building (licences over 10-years-old).

A distinct rivalry exists in which it remains to be seen how much can be built by the "PP" (i.e. right-wing) Town Halls and how much can be stopped by the "Pacte" Island Council.

The results of these negotiations are yet to be known, but, if the increase of the licences given by the "PP" Town Halls goes on, like it did in the few past years, (and this is what will happen if "PP" wins this battle) the population of Ibiza could double within a decade.

If I am not wrong, the limit for the next ten to fifteen years will be fixed on building new accommodation for around 135,000 people. The population today, without tourists, is 100,000.

Everybody knows (even "PP") that it is impossible and rather stupid to go on like in those last years. There must be a limit. But everybody also knows as that to stop altogether, or to institute a very big drop in building for a two-year period, is also impossible - for the global insular economy and for thousands of professionals in the building trade.

Let's hope that all the politicians together - with the common good at heart rather than party politics - can work out the best for the future.

Don't ask me what has to be done, because I don't know and I don't get paid to find out. But whoever is capable of such a feat should probably be transferred to the IRA - UK negotiations table.

The Good News

The Spanish Royal Family visited Cabrera (the fifth Balearic Island in size and the first Maritime Natural Park of Spain) two weeks ago. For the second year, our Prince Felipe released several dozen newborn turtles of the species "Careta careta" on the same beach where the mother laid and buried the eggs, toward the end of June or the beginning of July. They were collected and taken to a laboratory to be nested safely until birth. Thank you, your Highness. We appreciate your gift. Come back with more next year.

José P Ribas