Tag Archives: Water

The Tortuous case of the file concerning the swimming pools at Torre Vella

The case of the illegal swimming pools of the agro tourism hotel Torre Vella continues to generate controversy and headlines. This is because the file has become stuck without any resolutions. The case is better understood when the chronology of events is known.

On the 17 October 2019, GOB informed the Consortium for Urban Discipline of some alleged irregularities in works carried out at the agro tourism hotel. In March 2021, the Consortium announced the opening of a file of disciplinary proceedings for actions not included in the licence, such as the construction of seven swimming pools, huts, pergolas and concrete pavements on paths and terraces.

As a result of learning about the matter, the Commission for the Environment, that had approved the environmental authorization to the agro tourism hotel with a series of conditions, also ordered an inspection by the Environmental Agencies. In addition to the things detected by the Council Inspectors, they found two landfills of rubbish of more than 2,000 square meters, the opening of expressly denied roads and the paving of others.

The case, then, has two types of breaches. Some urban and others environmental.

The proposed fine made by the Consortium (for the urban part) is 486,844 euros for each one of the three main managers, that is to say, the developer, the builder and the director of architecture of the works.

Any file like this has the possibility of asking the relevant town council if the works not covered by the licence can be legalized. If so, then the fine is reduced by 90%.

Non-compliance with environmental authorization cannot be legalized. The work must be reversed and adapted to the conditions put by the Commission. The body responsible for processing disciplinary proceedings is the Island Governing Council.

This raises one of the main problems of the case. The developers did not want to reverse the illegal swimming pools into rain water and waste water tanks, as they were meant to be originally, but tried to legalise the new pools. Legalising an environmental violation is not possible.

When that intention was known, GOB asked the Alaior Town Council if they could look at the files and understand what logic could be applied for legalising swimming pools made from water saving tanks. The answer from the Town Council was to deny access to the files stating that they were “being processed”.

To combat the dangerous dynamic of leaving cases of urban violations in the dark, GOB is searching for ways to obtain transparency. Looking for a way that is more rapid than contentious litigation, the criminal route was taken, on the understanding that not allowing access to environmental information nor who has generated the opening of a file could be considered prevarication.

The Chamber’s response was that it understood that this was to be treated as a legal dispute that was not for them to resolve. They added that there was no evidence of activity “grossly contrary to the law”. They aimed, therefore, to use the route of administrative legislation.

It was then decided to wait for some months in case the legalization file was progressing and to return to request consultation of the file with the Town Hall. The response was again one of denial, again alleging that there was onlydocumentation presented by the developers and some reports from other administrations.

Before opening the legal route (both expensive and slow) it was decided to check if the Council of Transparency and Good Governance an administrative organ, not judicial, wanted to intercede in this matter. But that route has not worked either. The Council of Transparency says that the Alaior Town Hall has told them that within the file in question, it claims, “the simple request of the interested party is intended for obtaining the corresponding licences”. It is hard to understand why the developers have not incorporated technical nor legal reasons for their legalisation petition, but this is what is claimed.

It also says that the Town Hall assures that there are two new documents, prepared by non-municipal bodies (the Consortium and the Island Governing Council) and that they have sent GOB’s consultation request to these two organisations so that they can show, in any case, the reports that they have issued. With this response, the Island Governing Council takes it as acceptable.

GOB has directed various briefs to the Island Governing Council to be able to see how the disciplinary proceedings resulting from the environmental breaches are evolving, without having had any response yet.

This battle for transparency is not going to be abandoned and a legal team is analysing the case in order to decide what steps should be taken before each implicated institution.

All this, without taking the focus from the important part, is that two and a half years ago, disciplinary proceedings were opened, that the Alaior Town Hall has not decided if it is possible to legalise swimming pools. In the meantime illegal pools continue to be part of the usual activity of the agro tourism hotel, as it says in their advertisments.

The provision for 490 chalets, in distress

The projection of 490 villas on the Sant Lluis coast has had an official complaint made by GOB as a result of finding many important deficiencies in the forward planning.

The official plans for plots in Binisafuller and Cap d’en Font, with a projection of nearly five hundred villas, of which nearly half are already built, implies a projected population of 1,470 inhabitants, that must be supplied with drinking water and must have the management of sewage. Continue reading The provision for 490 chalets, in distress

Desalination plants: the excuse for suicidal growth

For months now, we have seen in the press, repeated articles on desalination plants. They are always presented as giving water to the population, but the information hides some points that should be kept in mind.

Desalination is much more expensive

Since the work on the desalination plant for Ciutadella was delivered, the Balearic Government promised to pay the equivalent of 8,000 euros per day for the 15 years of construction. More than 43 million euros. This is being paid by the citizens although blurred by other costs. Continue reading Desalination plants: the excuse for suicidal growth

Discharge of sewage water in Cap d’en Font

The presence of sewage water along the coast of Sant Lluis  led to finding a fixed installation for a discharge into the public domain. GOB documented the case and made a formal complaint to Costas and the Department of the Environment.

Cap d’en Font has a series of large chalets with enormous lawns in their gardens. For that reason, the area was chosen by GOB to show the large consumption of water taken for gardening, as part of the framework for their excursions made last year in their campaign Menorca In-SOS-tenible.

Some of the people on this excursion saw, in an open area close to one of the large chalets, an area covered by shrubs and weeds, filled with sewage water and told GOB. An inspection led to finding a pipe hidden in the vegetation, from where the discharge came.

Comments from the neighbours suggested that they had noticed, on other occasions, rocks with coloured waters and suspicious smells. It pointed to a habitual practice of the emptying of a septic tank belonging to a chalet, which, they also said, had a lot of summer tourist activity despite not having a tourist rental permit.

Cap d’en Font is one of the urbanizations that does not have a sewage system. The owner of each establishment is responsible for contracting someone to empty their septic tank when it is full.

GOB estimates that the garden attached to the discovered “facility” must use about 1000 litres of water daily just for maintaining the lawn in the summer. This is 90,000 litres, minimum, during the tourist season.

For that reason alone, these chalets should be, already, the object of systematic inspections. This is particularly so since there is a means for discharging sewage water into a public domain, including an area where people swim, which aggravates the situation even more.

A formal complaint has been registered with the Balearic Government Ministry of Sea (that assumed the responsibility of coastal surveillance since July) and with the Environmental Agencies.

Claiming water for the Albufera des Grau

The lack of control over freshwater is affecting the Albufera. The protest excursion that took place last Sunday, in the cold, wind and downpours of rain, was aimed to explain the problem.

The Albufera consists of a wide water basin (more than 50 square kilometres) and historically the water was supplied from different sources throughout the year. However, the drilling of wells did not consider leaving even a drop for the natural environment. What is called the ecological flow does not exist and this problem is being taken very seriously.

The largest lagoon of Menorca, the “Parque Natural” (Nature Preserve) of the island, the crown of the Reserve of the Biosphere, has a habitat that has been transformed because it is no longer supplied by freshwater, the lake has become saline and the bird populations are declining drastically.

It is therefore urgent to review the existing catchments in the environment. It is important to see if they are authorised, if they have meters that have been mandatory for many years, to check if readings are being made and if the data is being sent every year as established by current legislation.

The case of the Royal Irrigation Ditch should be legally analysed. It was documented as early as the XVI century that water is sent by turns to different farms ending up at the Albufera. For many years, this circulation has not been happening because water is removed at the head of the lagoon.

Finally, more short-term activities need to be looked at, such as analysing the possibility of using part of the purified water from the new treatment plant of the northern urbanisations to take to the most protected area of Menorca and help its recovery.

Cases such as this show clearly the urgency for changing the habitual inaction in the management of water in Menorca. We need ministries to act and not be inhibited by problems.

Water in Menorca, a debate on Thursday at the Ateneu

This evening, Thursday 2 February at 19.30 at the Maó Ateneu, the first of the round table debates of the cycle 700 Km2 will take place. They aim to explore the limits of Menorca for both the present and the future, at a time when serious problems of natural resources and overcrowding are evident. Experts will be participating giving their points of view and giving the opportunity to debate with those attending. These debates will take place every Thursday during the month of February at the Ateneu. The four debates will concentrate on water, transport, nautical saturation and the reception capacity of tourists to the island.

At this first round table, José Antonio Fayas will participate. He is an engineer who for many years has been following the problems of our aquifers and proposing solutions. Also, Agusti Rodriquez, hydrogeologist, who has taken part in different studies on Menorca’s aquifers and in the planning of the management of water by the island’s different town halls. Finally, Joana Maria Garau, Director General of Water Resources of the Balearic Government who is responsible for the management of bodies of fresh water, both surface and underground.

Fresh water is a grave problem for us and that has been talked about for a long time, without it ever being resolved. Quite the contrary, it seems to be getting worse. To be able to have first-hand information and to know what measures are being applied is important to be able to forecast how this resource can affect the wellbeing of the island’s population, its economy and the environment.

The cycle has been organised by GOB and the Maó Ateneu with the support of Menorca Preservation.

29 January, excursion, concerning unsustainability, Albufera des Grau

A new excursion for the campaign Menorca, InSOStenible (Unsustainable) will take place on Sunday 29 January. This time, the main subject will be the environmental effect resulting from the lowering of the water level and the lack of control over fresh water resources.

The Albufera des Grau is symbolic of Menorca’s nature. The largest wetlands area of the island suffered from repeated attempts for it to be urbanised, but the constant public response was to paralyse urban growth, the projected golf course and intentions to convert the lagoon into a nautical harbour.

In addition was the initiative of people who planted hundreds of plants and recovered the dunes area near the beach, and over the area that had been designated for a golf course and was nearly destroyed. Today, this area has completely recovered.

Nevertheless, the Albufera is dying. The progressive reduction of freshwater going into the lagoon means that it is becoming seriously saline. The impact is such that the bird populations are collapsing, which is not happening in other wetlands on the Island.

In 40 years, the Albufera has lost 90% of the usual bird population that was living there. Yes, it is a Natural Parkland, but, the uncontrolled taking of fresh water for other uses is killing off many of the natural values of this emblematic space.

The excursion, Menorca In-SOS-tenible, on Sunday will be to raise awareness of the problem, to understand the evolution of the place and consider possible solutions. People interested should meet at 10 am in the carpark of the Es Grau beach. It is estimated to end at 13.30.

It will be of low physical difficulty and there is no need for prior booking. It will not be cancelled even if the weather is bad. Please pass on this information to all your friends and, if possible, share a vehicle.

You can watch here the video commemorating 45 years of GOB in Menorca.