GOB matters. June 2015

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GOB matters is a section of Roqueta, a monthly magazine in English, written by Chita Laurie.

The Road works between Mahόn and Alaior

One day, this matter will be over and will not take up the time and energy which could be devoted to other subjects. The main purpose of mentioning it this time is to explain the inability of GOB to proceed with a legal case against the Consell regarding the environmental damage of the proposed outsized and unnecessary roundabouts. Justice is expensive and has been made more so by a manouvre on the part of the Consell of legal procedure on which the legal costs are based.

The costs of going to court are made on a percentage basis which for something indeterminate, like the environment, is based on 30,000 euros. However, a few weeks ago, GOB received a communication from the Judicial Secretariat stating that they had accepted the petition from the Consell that the dispute was about the road works in general which the Consell claim to be 10.7 million euros creating a new basis for the legal costs and so increasing them dramatically.

The original and accepted plans for the project of the road works did not incorporate outsize roundabouts. The dispute which GOB expected to take to court is not about the road improvements but on the delitarious effects to the environment made by these roundabouts.

The amount of 10.7 million euros on which the per centage costs of the hearing would be found has made the final legal costs shoot up and could be hundreds of thousands of euros. This makes it impossible for a non-profit making organization such as GOB to contemplate such a course of action. Only large companies, or other public administrations, with huge sums available could enter such a legal dispute.

GOB is informing the Court that they are withdrawing their case and that they have no alternative but to take these arguments to the Ombudsman and to Europe.  The lack of substantive arguments on the part of the Consell in this particular case will be denounced.  This could create a possible precedent, pointing to the application of criteria and laws currently in force, for cases presented to the Constitutional Tribunal by other organisations.

As GOB says, free access to justice is only available when the economic conditions allow.

The Consell has now decided to postpone building the Biniai roundabout with access to the future rubbish dump until after the elections. Considering the elections, Luis Alejandre is quoted as saying that they are thinking of the Island not of those who try to oppose their work.

Petroleum Prospecting

New seismic prospecting for petrol near the Balearics is being processed by the Ministry of Industry. GOB has made a written request, during the period of consultation, that some points should be incorporated to assess the environmental impact of the initiative.

What is concerning is that a large part of the Gulf of Leon, between the coasts of Cataluña and Minorca, will be prospected by the company Seabird Exploration, a company which has already done prospecting without authorization.

GOB has made a written representation to the Ministry pointing out the important necessity of evaluating the potential impact on the environment of this project not only by Seabird but also by Cairn Energy, Repsol, and Spectrum. It reminds that the environmental law requires the consideration of the accumulation of risks as well as of each one separately.

A large part of the area which Seabird wishes to prospect is the same area in which Spectrum operates, so the same zone could be prospected twice. Seismic booms can carry easily for 500 kilometers which would be the major part of the sea around the islands and it would be possible for the impact of the sounds to affect the islands and the mainland coast each time the projects were carried out.

The seismic prospecting is to exploit marine petrol extraction causing grave environmental problems already discussed in an earlier article. In addition to the consequences on the marine ecosystems would be the effects on the environment along the coasts of the mainland and the islands where tourism is so important to the economics of the country. GOB asks that this consideration be given high importance when evaluating the potential economics of each project.

GOB waits to hear the answers to the questions it has put to the Ministry.

Es Viver

This is the GOB garden centre which specialises in producing and selling native plants. These, unlike exotic plants, require little watering and, as Menorca becomes more and more aware of its increasing use of decreasing amounts of water, such gardening is attractive as well as labour saving. The centre has been given new life over the last five years by Ignasi Bau who, sadly, will be leaving his work and the Island in June. The centre and the landscape gardening they do will be run by Pere Mercadal.

Ignasi Bau gave a talk at the Education Centre of the Parc d’Albufera at Es Grau in May explaining the damage which can be done by imported plants which become “invasive species”. Invasive species can be animals as well as plants and they can devastate the native species producing a huge problem to the equilibrium of the local ecosystems. If ecosystems are threatened, so is the life of the planet for the survival of the world depends on ecosystems but they are very fragile and there is much to threaten them.

Introducing plants which are not indigenous to an island may not be a problem, and can enrich the local plants, but other varieties can be aggressive colonising without control and provoking drastic changes in the environmental equilibrium, gravely affecting the survival of local plants. What is special about Minorca is that it has over 1200 wild plants of which about 100 have been identified as endemic: ie they grow only here and so are unique in the world and produce a rich biodiversity. This is because Minorca, as an island, has its own evolution where ecosystems have been unaffected by mainland environments. In addition, because there has not been ribbon development the coastal areas remain safe from human interference and native plants survive.

Invasive species affect the natural mechanisms which regulate the populations and growth of local plants endangering the environment and its biodiversity. In turn, this gives economic and health problems from, for example, new plagues. Invasive species are as a result of human and voluntary acts and can, therefore, be halted.

The best known invasive plant is the one which spreads rapidly near the coastline which is so pretty: the purple succulent locally known as patatas fritas (carpobrotus edulis). Though they may look well in gardens, and might be kept in containers, with gardeners thinking that they will not spread, it is birds and insects which carry them to other places. Bees pollinating lantana, especially in urbanisations, help to spread this plant which is endangering so many local species. There have been large initiatives to remove invasive plant species from affected areas.

Beware of Pittosporum sp, from Chile, it is a superior Mile a Minute. Instead you could plant Pistacia lentiscus (Mastic). Then there is also that lovely cortaderia sellowana an invasive specie which could be replaced by the non invasive and much more delicate Ampelodesmos Mauritanica.

There are many more and Garden Centres have lists of plants which it is illegal to import, though sometimes they do not take any notice. So, it is as well to ask if the plant you are buying has an import licence. A fuller list will be given in a future article.

You can buy native plants for gardens and kitchen gardens at the Es Viver garden centre on Friday and Saturday mornings. It is to be found near Mestral near Mahόn on the road joining the airport road to the Ciutadella road.

Why does GOB matter?

GOB exists for the preservation of the land, the fauna and flora of the Balearics and its Minorca branch came into being in 1977. For new readers to this column who might like to have a full understanding of its work and purpose please refer to the website gobmenorca.com-Youth Networks, which is in English. It also explains why GOB continues with its acronym and though it might be unattractive to the English it is, at least, memorable. The site is an old one and refers to the Ferreries Nature museum which, sadly, no longer exists due to lack of funding but it remains a good explanation of GOB. The technical department of GOB is working on a current English website which it hopes to have operational soon. Meanwhile, if you look on www.gobmenorca.com you will find almost daily additions. Do not attempt to read the automatic translation into English: it is rubbish, but the translation into Spanish is good.


Ignasi Bau

Ashlee Pearce