President of the Region of Murcia, Fernando López Miras, announced this Friday the “greatest renaturalisation of the Mar Menor” with the expropriation of 3.1 million square metres in El Carmolí, Cartagena, to recover “a unique ecosystem in the world and avoid human pressures in this privileged environment”.
“We want to turn the wetland of El Carmolí into a protected natural area that can be preserved and visited, to make it a national reference point, taking as an example one of the largest wetlands in Europe, the Tablas de Daimiel,” said López Miras, who pointed out that the site is located “in one of the most degraded areas of the Mar Menor, in the Albujón wadi, through which 5 tonnes of nitrates flow continuously”.
“Thanks to the rescue of this land, we will protect and promote the largest natural and scenic window to the Mar Menor, which will allow the biodiversity of this unique ecosystem to be recovered through the enhancement of the great existing wetland located in the heart of the Mar Menor,” he stressed.
The head of the regional government made this announcement after a meeting with the mayoress of Cartagena, Noelia Arroyo, in which he detailed the characteristics of this regional project which, as part of the policies to advance in the protection and environmental restoration of the Mar Menor and in the promotion of its landscape quality, will be carried out “in agreement with society”.
“Today we are sending a message of determination and hope, proof of our firm commitment to a unique natural environment subject to continuous environmental aggression which, from this Government, we want to stand up to, and we hope that the central Government will also do so soon, from whom we need their involvement”, said the president, who regretted that “the General State Budget (PGE) devotes zero euros to the Mar Menor, which shows once again that the central Government does not feel involved in or responsible for anything that happens to this ecosystem”.
“The recovery of the Mar Menor is not going to come on its own, but requires the effort and active mobilisation of all the administrations,” he remarked. He called on the Ministry “to get down to work and help us to recover it, or at least let us do it ourselves”. “Faced with immobility, the regional government is taking action to recover the Mar Menor with courage and determination, with a firm commitment to heal an ecosystem whose deterioration goes back a long way,” said the president.
“And if they are not willing to help, they should at least let the regional government do so”, according to López Miras, who criticised the fact that on other occasions, these “environmental crises” have been given a “state” response, as in the case of the Prestige disaster or the Aznalcóllar disaster, with billions of euros in the PGE.
“We will bring together environmental, landscape and historical strategies that allow the ecological and natural values of El Carmolí to be interconnected and preserved,” he added. He also stressed the importance of “enjoying this space, like other public natural environments”.
The regional project envisages the extension of the hydrological-environmental value “to protect the Mar Menor and reduce the strong impact that flooding has on this area and prevent damage such as that caused by successive droughts”. Thus, the El Carmolí wetland will act as a “natural barrier by retaining, laminating and treating rainwater in cases of heavy rainfall in order to prevent further damage to the Mar Menor”.
The president explained that the action will be carried out through the application of what are known as ‘Nature-Based Solutions’ (NBS) for the recovery of deteriorated and degraded spaces, “and is in line with the guidelines of the European Union for the ecological transition, the European Green Pact and the Sustainable Architecture Strategy”.
“This action is a unique opportunity to enhance the environment and landscape of the Mar Menor and turn it into a world example of renaturalisation,” said López Miras, who described the regional project as “a green solution in every sense to promote its renaturalisation and prevent future human pressures on its privileged environment”.
In addition to the hydrological restoration, the project includes three other lines of action: environmental recovery of the habitats; management of the existing infrastructures, such as the buildings in ruins or the airstrip; and the reconversion of the current road into a great backbone parallel to the sea line, between Punta Brava and Los Alcázares. This axis will act as a linear viewpoint and as an accessible and sustainable itinerary, pedestrian and cyclable, for the enjoyment and enhancement of the environmental and scenic wealth.
SITUATION AND CHARACTERISTICS OF EL CARMOLÍ
The land at El Carmolí has been completely abandoned since the 1980s when it ceased to be used as a seaplane hangar for the Ministry of Defence. They are currently in the process of being returned to their original owners and, for this reason, the regional Executive is initiating their forced expropriation to rescue them from legal traffic and prevent them from passing into private hands, which would cause greater anthropic pressures on ecosystems, and thus be able to undertake the great regional project for the environmental recovery of the area.
The El Carmolí wetland is the largest visual window on the Mar Menor. It constitutes a space between the mouth of the Rambla del Albujón (to the north); the urban centre of Punta Brava (to the south); the Mar Menor (to the east) and the AP-7 motorway and the N-332 road (to the west).
It is a salt marsh that is protected within the Natural Area called ‘Open spaces and islands of the Mar Menor’ and is a Protected Landscape and has four protected statuses: Special Area of Conservation (SAC); Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI); Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA) and is included in the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
This Saturday, the Community will begin the project for the recovery of El Carmolí with the publication in the Official Gazette of the Region of Murcia (BORM) of the compulsory expropriation order. After the public exhibition period, the Governing Council will make the declaration of occupation of the land due to the urgent need.
In parallel to the expropriation process, the regional administration is already working on a Master Plan, the execution project of which will be put out to tender once it has passed the public exhibition and environmental processing. Currently, one million euros has been budgeted for the expropriation in accordance with the price established in various rulings of the Supreme Court, López Miras pointed out.
The aim is to turn this space into an area that can only be visited on foot or by bicycle. “We also guarantee that there will be no urban or human development, and we eliminate the road that now passes through the area to eliminate pollution; and we ensure that it will act as a green filter when there are torrential rains,” he said.
After the expropriation, a participatory process will be opened with the town councils, neighbours and all sectors to gather their proposals. However, he said that there are “very embryonic” ideas on the table, such as the creation of an interpretation centre on the biodiversity of the Mar Menor. He added that this is a project “at least for two terms” and “in the medium term”, but that “it will be of no use” if “urgent” solutions are not adopted.