MURCIA LA MANGA DEL MAR MENOR

A saline lagoon in Spain’s southeastern region of Murcia has become a symbol of how a lack the respect for ns environment can backfire. This extendido spot made worldwide headlines in October once thousands of dead fish washed increase on shore. Los PAÍS traveled to what was when an idyllic spot come find out how things acquired this bad


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The biologist Francisca Giménez Casalduero bring away samples desde the Mar Menor.RAÚL BELINCHÓN
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In the popular summer resort of La Manga del Mar Menor, in front of apartment blocks y street cafés the sit empty y shuttered at this time of ns year, un diver disappears into the depths of ns lagoon. Her surname is Francisca Giménez Casalduero y she is a researcher at the University of Alicante who has been acquisition samples in this marsh for los last veintiocho years. Standing here on ns recent February day, y despite ns clear waters, los biologist delivers un shocking diagnosis: “At ns depth that below three meters, the lagoon is absolutely dead; there is nothing. And above that, there is still some life, but ns situation is dire.”

Despite the name, the Mar menos is no a sea but a saline seaside lagoon in Murcia spanning 135 square kilometers y separated representar the Mediterranean ~ ~ by ns 22-kilometer largo strip of soil (La Manga, an interpretation “the sleeve”) that is no wider than cien meters at various points.

Estás mirando: Murcia la manga del mar menor

It is uno unique saltwater ecosystem, boasting five volcanic islands y a biodiversity particularmente to this spot. But the Mar menos is also a stark example of how contempt for the environment can backfire. Over there are countless reasons why the lagoon is alguno longer los picture that health. An initial there was the deje de hacerlo of waste desde mining, climate unfettered construction, and finally the nitrates representar intensive farming that seeped into ns water for decades, contributing to the collapse of ns ecosystem.

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Members of ns forest brigade eliminate algae desde Villananitos beach.Raúl Belinchón

But if one had to pinpoint ns specific moment when the landscape was completely transformed, it would be during the 1960s with los development the La Manga, wherein Giménez Casalduero is currently carrying fuera de her research.

It all started when a lawyer called Tomás Maestre Aznar regulated to acquire sole ownership of the narrow piece of sand dividing the Mar Menor from the Mediterranean. At los time, this place was a practically a wilderness. Thought about of tiny value, he took it off the manos of members the his very own family and other heirs of the former mining business.

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Thanks to his contacts dentro de the frank regime, Maestre worked to ensure the this piece of reportedly useless land would come to be one of los chosen locations for the regime’s decisive invest in los tourist industry. When the deal was sealed, ns Catalan architect Antonio Bonet, who had operated in paris with Le Corbusier, come on board. That was i was delegated to design un luxury tourist enclave that would lure foreign tourists to that magical but deserted spot.

“La Manga to be then a desert between two seas; it was all dunes,” says gana Bonet, the architect’s daughter, who defines how los project envisioned by she father had nothing come do with what came later. “I was eight or nine years viejo then, but me gustaría spent ns lot the summers there due to the fact that my father had actually to visit the site to keep tabs on the construction work.”

In his drawings, Antonio Bonet draft a series of small, developed locations combining high-rises y villas y separated by follow me of green belt. Yet Maestre y the advocates of fixed tourism had actually other ideas. “It became impossible to have actually his vision respected,” adds gana Bonet.

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Untrammeled breakthrough on La Manga de Mar Menor, with los Mediterranean ~ ~ to ns left. Raúl Belinchón

Many the Victoria’s childhood memory involve the lagoon. “Summers meant ns beach y the outdoors,” she says. “Sometimes we would feel adventurous and take un rickety viejo boat y go come one of ns islands. Diving into ns water was bliss: the Mar menor was stiller than los Mediterranean and you could see the seabed much an ext clearly. For me, that sort of life was luxury, but it had nothing to do with money.”

But for others, the was every about ns money. With the fin of Franco’s regime and the 1973 oil crisis, los project started to unravel. To meet his debt obligations, Tomás Maestre started to salary suppliers, bricklayers and plumbers con plots that land. Follow to artículo Luis Domínguez, writer of several publications on los history the La Manga’s development, that was when whatever went crazy y every último square meter between ns two bodies of water was sealed with concrete and brick. “In los 1980s, my father was currently pained by La Manga,” says ganar Bonet. “He experienced how too much greed had destroyed uno paradise. Girlfriend would call him to come down for un weekend but he would say no, due to the fact that he didn’t want to watch it, because it hurt.”

The breakthrough of La Manga no only created a model of excessive building and construction in los area – los number that ports per kilometer of shore is almost five tiempo that of los Balearic archipelago – it likewise had uno major impact on the lagoon itself. Besides los sewage and other fallouts from tourism, something taken place between mil novecientos setenta y cuatro and 1975 that affected ns ecosystem in uno very details way: in order to enable larger watercrafts to enter the Tomás Maestre marina, the Estacio channel, i m sorry connected ns wetland with ns Mediterranean, to be expanded. This made means for los yachts, but also for the seawater, totally altering the lagoon’s ecosystem. Its levels of salinity dropped, y species desde the Mediterranean started to migrate y colonize the wetland, such together a type of algae well-known as Caulerpa prolifera.

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Right approximately that time, another substantial project was around to transform farming in ns nearby fields of campo de Cartagena: the water deliver between los Tagus y Segura rivers, i m sorry would at some point have one equally disastrous effect on the lagoon. Hundreds of cuadrado kilometers of areas that had been cultivated con dryland farming approaches now began to be irrigated and fertilized. The effects that this intensive agriculture were felt numerous kilometers away. As ns biologist Francisca Giménez Casalduero explains, “Just as they boosted los growth that lettuces, los nitrates the reached ns lagoon began to make ns algae grow y the bottom came to be covered with Caulerpa. This is los first symptom that eutrophication – seabeds that become dominated through this type of algae due to an overfill of nutrients. What is keep going in los Mar menos is textbook stuff. It has actually been well researched.”

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Cultivated areas near los Mar Menor.Raúl Belinchón

Within los space of un few years, los underwater landscape had readjusted as lot as los out-of-water one. While there is not lot prior scientific datos on the species that inhabited los lagoon, by los 1980s fishermen were currently noticing the something was wrong – their captura was coming to be smaller. Jesús Gómez, los former cabeza of san Pedro después Pinatar’s fisherman’s guild, was left with no alternative however to offer his dos small watercrafts for artisan fishing y buy ns larger seiner that might cope with ns Mediterranean instead. “We fishermen might see it,” he says. “The cómputo of the ecosystem had changed, production went right down, y although los lagoon to be recovering after 1995, it had already transformed: of ns dozen profitable species we had actually previously fished, only three or four were left.”

There to be other advertencia signs gastos generales the years, such as ns proliferation the jellyfish in 1990. There to be alerts desde scientists, complaints in Europe, street protests. In 1996, los environmental organization ANSE also used a hot-air balloon to advertise its concerns for the Mar Menor. Yet to little avail. What did make civilization sit up and take an alert was when los lagoon turned green in 2016; ANSE posted uno video of un diver submerged in a what looked like ns thick environment-friendly soup. However what to be happening beneath los surface was also worse.