Last update:
2020-05-20

Mar Menor environmental conflict, Spain

The “Mar Menor” is an inland lagoon situated in Campo de Cartagena in the region of Murcia. It is subject to very heavy pressure from turistification and public works, and the discharge of wastewater from irrigation.


Description:

The “Mar Menor” is an inland lagoon situated at the south of Spain in Campo de Cartagena within the region of Murcia. Its 135 km2 extension and a depth of 6 meters make it one of the largest salt lagoons in Europe. The lagoon, separated from the Mediterranean sea by a narrow land strip of 22 kilometers long and between 100 and 800 width, has a rich and diverse ecosystem as well as  important cultural values. The “Mar Menor” and its peripheral humid areas count with different figures of protection such as Ramsar convention or the Barcelona convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, bordering the lagoon there are two protected natural spaces under the figure of Regional Park: “Arenales y Salinas de San Pedro” and “Calbalanque, Monte de las Cenizas y Peña del Águila”. Despite all of these protections the lagoon faces a serious environmental crisis. From the 1960s onwards the area has been subjected to a progressive process of touristification and urbanization that have risen exponentially the demographic and environmental pressure over his ecosystems. Several engineering projects have been taken place. In 1970 a sports port was built-up and was the starting point of a set of physical changes that will affect the lagoon and its surroundings. In 1973 another project was developed in order to dredge Estacio canal which connected the lake with the Mediterranean Sea. The intention was to allow boats of deeper draft to cross to the lagoon and the result was a great environmental impact due to the alteration of the temperature and salinity of the water, and therefore the ecosystems equilibrium. In 1979, one of the largest engineering works in Spain culminated: the Tajo-Segura transfer. The transfer of water from one river to another was made with the aim of converting the traditional dryland agriculture into irrigated, thus becoming this area in the so-called orchard of Europe although its strong rainfed nature.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Mar Menor environmental conflict, Spain
Country:Spain
State or province:Murcia
Location of conflict:Murcia
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Urban development conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Desalination
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Tourism services
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

• It is estimated that the reduction of groundwater in the area's aquifers due to overexploitation is approximately about 13000 hm3

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Project area:17,000
Level of Investment:680,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:20,000-100,000
Start of the conflict:01/05/2012
Company names or state enterprises:GS España
GS Hlding España
Inagrup
Ciky Oro
Vanda Agropecuaria SL
Relevant government actors:• Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura: https://www.chsegura.es/chs/index.html
• Ministry of Ecological Transition of Spain: https://www.miteco.gob.es/es/
• Region of Murcia’s government: https://www.carm.es/web/pagina?IDCONTENIDO=1174&IDTIPO=200&RASTRO=c$m59490
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Commission (EC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The two most important:
• Asociación de Naturalistas del Sureste (ANSE): https://www.asociacionanse.org/
• Pacto por el Mar Menor: https://pactoporelmarmenor.blogspot.com/
Other associations related to environmental topics that support the struggle:
• Ecologistas en Acción Murcia: https://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/federaciones/region-murciana/
• SEO/Birdlife: https://www.seo.org/
• WWF España: https://www.wwf.es/
Other local associations that are not focus on environmental topics but that support this cause:
• Cofradía de Pescadores San Pedro del Pinatar: http://www.lonjaspinatar.com/
• Federación de Asociaciones de Vecinos, Consumidores y Usuarios de Cartagena y Comarca: http://favcac.com/
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsImpact on Ramsar site
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:The regional government approved in December of 2019 new legislation meant to protect the lagoon, and reverse the environmental damage. The central government have also met with local activists, and wants to approve soon a new climate change law that will introduce some measurements to face the environmental crisis.
This platform composed by different environmental, social, cultural, and union groups have proposed ten urgent measurements that future legislation should include in order to protect Mar Menor.
1. Implement a sustainable agricultural model in the surroundings of the lagoon, (campo de Cartagena), compatible with its protection. Authorities should also implement necessary control and surveillance activities to make sure this model is implemented.

2. Start necessary measurement to stop the spilling of nutrients into Mar Menor.

3. Evaluate and improve the state of drainage network with special attention to sewer pipes.

4. Substitute the so called “beach regeneration” with other models able to protect the fragile sea ecosystem.

5. Eliminate o permeabilise infrastructure that obstacles natural dynamics of marine currents (ports and breakwaters).

6. Approve the necessary legislation for protecting the Mar Menor, including sanctions and regulating the activities allowed in area.
7. Implement an integral plan for the prevention of flooding. This should avoid runoffs, land erosion and the spilling of nutrients, plastics and phytosanitary products into the lagoon.

8. Apply the urban moratorium in the surroundings of Mar Menor approved in February 2017.

9. Implement an integral plan for sustainable tourism, able to foment the cultural ecological ethnographical and scenic value of the region.

10. Inform citizenship and concerned sectors with transparency on the situation of Mar Menor, and implement measurements to include them in the decision taking, following current legislation.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Different experts and environmental associations argue that the legislation approved by the regional government is not ambitious enough to protect the lagoon. There is also great skepticism concerning new measures since in 2018 environmental legislation was already approved by the previous central government, but it couldn’t avoid 2019 eutrophication episode.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Ramsar convention.
[click to view]

Barcelona convention for the protection of the Mediterranean sea.

Regional Park: “Arenales y Salinas de San Pedro” and “Calbalanque, Monte de las Cenizas y Peña del Águila”.
[click to view]

Decreto-ley 2/2019, de 26 de diciembre, de Protección Integral del Mar Menor.
[click to view]

Barcelona convention for the protection of the mediterranean sea.

Regional Park: “Arenales y Salinas de San Pedro” and “Calbalanque, Monte de las Cenizas y Peña del Águila”.

Decreto-Ley nº. 1/2017, de 4 de abril, de medidas urgentes para garantizar la sostenibilidad ambiental en el entorno del Mar Menor.
[click to view]

Ramsar convention.

Barcelona convention for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea.

Decreto-ley 2/2019, de 26 de diciembre, de Protección Integral del Mar Menor.

Decreto-Ley nº. 1/2017, de 4 de abril, de medidas urgentes para garantizar la sostenibilidad ambiental en el entorno del Mar Menor.

Bordering the lagoon there are two protected natural spaces under the figure of Regional Park: “Arenales y Salinas de San Pedro” and “Calbalanque, Monte de las Cenizas y Peña del Águila”.

Common Agricultural Policy
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Moreno, Pedro & Ibarra Marinas, Daniel & Balibrea, Jorge. (2018). La Burbuja del regadío: El caso del Mar Menor. 10.13140/RG.2.2.33484.72320.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Redacción de El Salto Diario. “No es la DANA”: los ecologistas culpan a la agroindustria y las administraciones del colapso del Mar Menor. Published on october 14, 2019(Newspaper article in El Salto Diario)
[click to view]

Esther Sánchez. La asfixia del mar menor. Published on october 20, 2019 (newspaper article in El País)
[click to view]

Cristina Crespo Garay. La agonía del Mar Menor: así hemos llegado a su colapso ecológico. Published on october 23, 2019 (Article in National Geographic)
[click to view]

Esther Sánchez. Murcia aprueba un decreto ley para recuperar el mar Menor pero admite que no es suficiente. Published on dicember 26, 2019 (newspaper article in El País)
[click to view]

Antonio Delgado y Ana Tudela. Mar Menor: historia profunda de un desastre. October, 2019 (Report in Datadista)
[click to view]

Pablo Rivas. Mar menor, ecocidio anunciado. publicado el 8 de diciembre de 2019.(newspaper article)
[click to view]

Redacción de El Salto Diario. “No es la DANA”: los ecologistas culpan a la agroindustria y las administraciones del colapso del Mar Menor. Published on 2019 october 14 (Newspaper article in El Salto Diario)
[click to view]

Pablo Rivas. Mar menor, ecocidio anunciado. Published on december 8, 2019.(newspaper article in El Salto Diario)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Asociación de Naturistas del Sureste
[click to view]

Pacto por el mar menor
[click to view]

Ramsar Spain
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Students of the Master in Political Ecology, Degrowth and Environmental Justice (Guillermo Fernández, Sara Gil and Mario Diaz)
Last update20/05/2020
Comments
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