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Island Ecology

Island Ecology

by José P Ribas

The Present - And The Future?
José P Ribas Explains The Background To The Politics And The Power Behind The Ses Salines Paper Park


Ibiza Ecology

The new Law that will turn the area of Ses Salines from a "Reserva Natural" into a Natural Park should be approved this month by the Balearic Council ("Govern Balear"), according to the island's newspaper "Diario de Ibiza" on 16th July 2001.

The future Natural Park (if it happens) will cover the actual protected area containing 11,000 Hectares, 2,220 of them inland (about 350 in Formentera) including the beaches and littoral, as well as the dunes, the forest by the salt pans and the surrounding lands and hills.

In Ibiza, it goes from the beach of "Es Codolar" by the Airport on the West, along the coast to "Cap des Falcó," "La Canal," "Ses Salines beach," "Sa Torre de s'es Portes" and "Es Cavallet" up to "Sal Rossa" on the East side, forming more or less a square area. The rest, 8,780 Hectares, are maritime, including the little islands of "Es Freus" (between Ibiza and Formentera), with special interest to protect the seabed, the prairies of "Posidonia", restricting the number of boats that can anchor on it. All the activities (fishing, diving and other sports) will have to be reduced and controlled. The massive tourism in the whole area will have to be limited.

This new Law has been fought for tooth and nail by the great majority of natives and residents ever since the mid-1970s when, for the first time on the Island, different groups of people (Artists, Intellectuals, Architects, Students, Ecologists, Ornithologists, etc.) got together, under the watchwords "Salvem Ses Salines" (Let's save Ses Salines) to demand more effective protection for these unique areas of Ibiza and Formenterra.

This initiative had, from the beginning, total support and sympathy from the people. It was the first local ecological action and also the seeds for a deeper and stronger ecological feeling that, later on, formed new NGO's and the local "Green" political parties. The task for the local Ecology started in Ses Salines and still goes on.

To try to understand better what's going on, we have to consider a little bit of recent local history: In1983, the Balearic Islands were officially proclaimed the "Comunitat Autònoma de Ses Illas Balears", i.e. an autonomous political entity within Spain. The same year, the first "Govern Balear" (Balearic Council) was created and the powerful conservative party "Partido Popular" (P.P.) won the election. The first President to be nominated was Gabriel Cañellas Fons from Mallorca, re-elected four years later in 1987.

The President's wife and her family (the "Salas" family) own the salt industry in both Ibiza and Formentera under the name of "Salinera Española S.A." (Apart from the historical rights of the people of Ibiza and Formentera). They are also the proprietors of all the salt pans and most of the land in the neighbourhood, with almost a hundred houses already built on it (most without a legal licence) and exploited by the same family.

"Ibifor" is another of the family's companies, including all the business and services (bars, restaurants, rent of sunbeds, umbrellas, pedal boats, sailing boats, etc.) on the beaches of "Ses Salines" and "Es Cavallet," according to "El País" on February 26th 2000).

At the time, the whole area was considered an "Area Natural de Especial Interes" (ANEI) and it had (in theory) a reasonable amount of ecological protection, which limited the building and any changes on it. This situation did not please the president, Mr Cañellas and his wife, the owners of the land.

In 1990 Cañellas being President of the Balearic Council, presented plans for his own companies, represented by him, in his own bureau at the Balearic Parliament (and obviously his private office) for a new massive urbanisation (hotel and blocks of apartments) by Ses Salines beach. As it was against the laws, the urbanisation couldn't be approved without changing them.

In 1991 his next step was to force his own political party (P.P.) to change the old law and reduce the amount of protection for the area, so he could build whatever he wanted to. ("El País," 26th February 2000).

But unexpected factors (unexpected only by them) came onto the scene. Well-kept secrets began to emerge and the lid was blown off the cover-up. An ugly and dirty multi-million peseta affair that happened on the island of Mallorca, known as "Soller's Tunnel Case" couldn't be disguised any longer by the President and part of his team and they all ended up in the Tribunals. That kept the President and his lawyers occupied for a while. Mr President had to resign and the vice-president took his place. It was the only way that he could be taken to the Courts and, against his will, he left the government, pushed out by the Madrid leaders of his own political party.

The sentence of the Tribunal, as everybody knows, proved and declared Mr Gabriel Cañellas Fons (ex president of the first autonomic government) guilty of all the charges that he was accused of. The only reason why our "dear" ex president didn't used the prisoner's pyjamas was because by the time he was judged, the charges were worn out, like the date on an old can of soup. (After all, they are not that stupid).

By then, the Central Socialist Government in Madrid, led at the time by Felipe Gonzalez, was alerted by the local political opposition of the Cañellas' intentions, so they rushed through a new law, with much more severe restrictions for the area and in 1995 it was approved by the Spanish Congress. This was the law which proclaims Ses Salines as a "Reserva Natural," the highest level of protection (there again, in theory) just below that of a Natural Park.

Meanwhile, in the Balearic Islands, the Conservative Party (P.P.) was looking for a new leader, a new face after the "fiasco" of the first President. They tried with a few, until they decided on a young, smart man, Jaume Matas, one of the "dolphins" of Cañellas who was not involved in the Soller's Tunnel affair.

He was the candidate and he won the elections for the "Govern Balear" in 1995. Also, by then, the "Partido Popular" won, for the first time, the elections for the Spanish Government in Madrid. The situation was then ideal for Cañellas' plans of urbanising Ses Salines.

For the first time in the history of our democracy, the local government "Consell Insular" the provincial government "Govern Balear" and the central government "Cortes Españolas" in Madrid were all in their hands.

It was then when Jaume Matas, as President of the Balearic Council, demanded even more autonomy from Madrid. They went to Court to demand control of the entire coastline and the Natural Reserves and derogated the socialist laws. It was obvious that they had much to gain by this move.

But, there again, something unexpected happened. In 1999, Jaume Matas and his party, the "P.P," lost the Autonomic Elections against a coalition of the Socialists, the Green and Left Parties under the name of "Pacte de Progrés". Francesc Antich was nominated President of the "Govern Balear," Pilar Costa for the "Consell Insular".

For the first time in our Democracy, the local and the provincial Governments were not under the control of the Conservative Party. Not so in Madrid, where the "P.P." won the Spanish Elections for the second time and this time with an absolute majority.

Nevertheless, in Madrid's High Courts, the demands of more autonomy for the Balearic Islands were accepted and the sentence gave to the Balearic Council full control over decisions about the land.

This is when the "Govern Balear" first developed the Provincial Law for a Natural Park in Ses Salines and also the P.O.R.N. (Plan de Ordenación de los Recursos Naturales) for a Natural Park in Cala D'Hort, which has already been approved.

Bad news for some! To lose control of certain areas means losing a lot of "Euros" (this is what it is all about). What can we do? Don't forget that our smart young Jaume Matas has now been ousted from local office, and we desperately need a charismatic, wise and very down-to-earth Minister for the Environment.

Meanwhile, Matas, the "ex" Balearic president, was nominated Minister of the Environment for the Spanish "P.P." Government and is now the Maximum Authority for the Environment in Spain.

I was praying last week and I'll pray again:


To be continued next week.

José P Ribas