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S'Albufera des Grau, Menorca. Spain

Successful struggle since 1974-75 to today for the preservation of a unique wetland and natural space against threats from tourism and the building industry. Intervention of the GOB (an environmental group).


This was a decisive conflict that started in 1974-75 for the preservation of a wetland and natural space at the north-east of the island against threats from tourism development.  It is a case of success where the intervention of civil society and the GOB Menorca (an environmental movement) was crucial.  In Menorca there is consensus that the conflict signalled the beginning of a series of events regarding preservation of coastal areas against threats from touristization and from the building industry. In comparison to Mallorca and Ibiza, such struggles have made of Menorca a relatively environmentally preserved island although under threat of going the same way than the rest of the Balearic Islands. (1).  S’Albufera des Grau was declared a Natural Park by virtue of Decree 50/1995, of 4 May, after years of local social efforts to protect the area. In 2003 the Park’s limits were expanded to cover a total surface area of 5,006 hectares, between its waters and its land, and the five islets  that were declared Nature Reserves (Addaia islands, s’Estany, Bassa de Morella, es Prat and the Illa d’en Colom) in an effort to conserve particularly sensitive places of great ecological interest. Moreover, virtually the entire area sits within a Natural Area of Special Interest (ANEI), forms part of the European Union Natura 2000 Network and comprises the nucleus of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This protected natural environment includes diverse habitats with varying degrees of human intervention: wetlands, agricultural and livestock areas, forests, a coastline of cliffs and beaches, islets and a marine area.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:S'Albufera des Grau, Menorca. Spain
State or province:Balearic Islands
Location of conflict:Maó, Menorca
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

S'Albufera des Grau Natural Park covers more than 5,000 hectares, where a large variety of animals and plants live. This protected area is located in the north-east of the island; in it we find a 2 km long lagoon, a long coastal road and agricultural and pasture land. The Natural Park has the largest wetland area of Menorca and one of the most important of the Balearic Islands. Menorca was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO since 1993, and the Albufera des Grau is, without any doubt, the ecological centerpiece why the island was given this title. There live birds such as cormorants, herons or fish eagles, which you can observe from the observation points. A great natural reserve with fauna and flora of priceless value. (2). The Albufera's birds are threatened however by salinization of the water, due to less rainfall and intake of rainwater. (4).

Project area:5,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1974
Relevant government actors:Parliament of the Balearic Islands
Consell Insular de Menorca
Reserva de Biosfera, Menorca
International and Finance InstitutionsUNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from France
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:GOB, Grup Ornitològic Balear (Menorca)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
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
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Land dispossession
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Land demarcation
New legislation
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Proposal and development of alternatives:The declaration of a Natural Park and the fact that Menorca is now a Unesco Biosphere Reserve stopped the urbanization plan in S'Albufera des Grau. Some tourist houses built at the beginning of the conflict are still inside the Park but with a deadline for returning to the original landscape. The popular resistance to urbanization led to the alternative of a Natural Park.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:This conflicts is considered the beginning, after the dictatorship of General Franco, of a period of environmental activism in Menorca. The case of S'Albufera des Grau has inspired later generations to this day, guided by GOB that was founded in 1977 in the defence of the territory of the island of Menorca of less than 100,00 inhabitants.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

El moviment ecologista a Menorca Una aproximació històrica. Miquel López Gual. Academia edu.

(3) Miquel López Gual, La batalla pel territori a Menorca. 2023. Revista Posidonia.
[click to view]

"La imatge de Menorca. Canvis en el paisatge durante el segle XX", Joan Pau Salort, Laura Piris, Ester Cladera. 2011.Archivo de Imagen y Sonido de Menorca, con el Institut d'Estudis Baleàrics.

(1) Laura Piris Coll. Los inicios del movimiento social para la defensa del territorio en Menorca. El caso de s’Albufera des Grau. Años 1974-1975.
[click to view]

(2) S'Albufera des Grau Natural Park
[click to view]

(4). Diario de Menorca. 20 Jan. 2023. Marcha del GOB alerta de peligros en S'Albufera des Grau.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Thalassa. TV3. S'Albufera des Grau.
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update09/05/2023
Conflict ID:6342
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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