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Weekly Edition 024: Saturday 11th August 2001

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Island Ecology
by José P Ribas

Ses Salines:
From "Paper Park" to "Theme Park"

You can't read, write, or even imagine Ibiza's history without the salt.

The relationship between the process of the crystallisation from the seawater, its yearly harvest and the Island of Ibiza, can be compared with Venice and its channels.

And now Ses Salines of Ibiza and Formentera are going through a process of historic change.

For the first time in modern history, there is a real chance and the firm will of the Autonomic Government, to give the area the qualification of "Parque Natural Autonomico" (Natural Park), under the control of a new law and the protection of the Autonomic Government.

The total area of the "Reserva Natural del Estado Español (Natural Reserve), under the total control and responsibility of the Spanish Minister of Environment Mr Jaume Matas from the Central Government in Madrid, is the future Park - around 11,000 Hectares in both Islands, including the salt pans, the dunes, the lands, hills and forest and all the littoral, the waters, islands and seabed of the channel between Ibiza and Formentera.

The importance of Ses Salines for both Islands, the relevance of the salt trade with the rest of the World, is so much and so deep that you can't take them apart.

The Ecological and Natural qualities of the entire area, its flora, fauna and the splendid beauty of it, are no less important than the historical factuality of the Occidental Mediterranean Ecosystem.

Ses Salines have special international relevance and is at the top of the list as a very important humid area (Ramsar) which is included in the European Union Nature Ned "Habitat 2,000".

Its flora is unique and in part exclusive to the humid areas with a high content of salt (Alofíla Vegetation) "Arthrocnemum fruticosum" "Arthrocnemum glaucum" and "Inula crithmoides." These plants live exclusively by the salt pans and along the channels surrounding them. There is also the endemic plant "Ginesta d'Eivissa" (Gracias Néstor, Sr. Maestro).

By the dunes, there are "Lotus citisoides," "Cakile maritima," "Ammophila arenaria," "Pancratium maritimum," "Crucianella maritima," "Juniperus phoenica," "Crithnum maritimum" and "Limonium caprariense" amongst others, some exclusive to the dunes by the beach.

Ses Salines have also been classified as "Zona de Especial Protección para las Aves" (ZEPA), a special zone for the protection of birds.

Flamingos "Phenicopterus ruber", Herons "Egretta garzetta" and "Ardea cinerea", and Ducks "Anas penelope," "Anas clipeata" and "Aythia ferina" are among more then two dozen birds that use the area to feed themselves and rest on their yearly emigration trip to the South.

Locally, there are three species of seagulls and two types of albatross. Several rapacious birds live in the forest and cliffs, including owls and falcons. Five of the "Calidris" family, "C. Alpina," "Charadrius alexandrinus," "Scolopax rusticola" and "Himantopus himantopus" are among a long list of others.

UNESCO has declared the seabed prairies of "Posidonia" (Sea Grass) as a World Heritage Site.

Ses Salines is also a "ANEI" (Area Natural de Especial Interes) Natural Area of Special Interest, for the beauty of its landscape and its ecological qualities.

Finally, in 1999 UNESCO accepted the candidature from Ibiza: Eivissa, Culture and Bio-diversity, and also declared Ses Salines as a World Heritage Site.

Each one of these well-deserved titles also means a good income from all these organisations, for their own preservation. How much money do they get? Where does it go? It will be interesting to find out. I promise to let you know as soon as I can find out.

So, as we can see, the entire area, its flora and fauna, has all the qualifications and rights to be protected and pampered like a new-born child, or the "Parisian Versailles Gardens". At least on paper.

But, unfortunately, the everyday realities - the facts - are miles away from the truth.

This is why the nationalist political party E.N.E. (Entesa Nacionalista i Ecologista) and all the Ecological Groups of the Islands are saying that what Madrid is really giving us - the people of Ibiza, is only a "Paper Park" - nothing but papers.

Ses Salines, instead of being conducted as a Natural Reserve, is rather exploited as a "Theme Park" without having to build a "Disneyland."

The park is already there without need of any decoration and there are quite a few local performers, for free.

What we really can find nowadays inside the Natural Reserve (where there used to be a splendid forest) is an enormous parking lot, thousands of cars all over the place every day, plus an all day bus service. This is something like drying up Venice's "Gran Cannalle" just to be able to have more visitors by car.

Hundreds of boats come to shore and anchor in the reserved waters daily.

Ses Salines is one of the most visited and crowded area of Ibiza, considering that there are no hotels or housing developments and everybody needs transport to get there. This is very good for their business, though that also means the real degradation of all this wonderful nature.

In the salt pans and the channels by, what we can see most is plastic bags, carton boxes, empty bottles, cans, and tetra bricks, papers and disco flyers.

Down the beach of Ses Salines, hundreds of beach chairs compete with the pedal-boats or what-ever-boats to occupy the seashore. There are not enough containers for all the rubbish. It is left on the ground; the wind and the animals do the rest, so it is soon all over the place. Cleaning has to be done daily with heavy machinery and the ecological impact of it all should be considered.

By the East, "Es Cavallet" is one of the best, genuine and untouched beaches of Ibiza, with crystal clear waters and white sands made of billions of shells, the largest and best dunes system of the Island, with exuberant and exclusive vegetation, forming an extraordinarily beautiful natural garden. Even so, rubbish has begun to accumulate in the woods behind the beach, because some people have no respect for the unique environment that they are in.

At the vertex point of both beaches, "Sa Punta de s'es Portas", there is the magnificent, solid and aesthetically pleasing tower called by the same name. Maybe the "Rainbow Flag" should be also on top of it, to make it a little bit more obvious (if this is possible) in which district of the Theme Park you are.

This is how I see Ses Salines nowadays, a big, big business, exploited as a "Natural Theme Park" signalled by - not Ibiza's - but the "Rainbow Flag".

The Good News

The local ecological group "Amics de la Terra-Eivissa" - one of the branches of "Friends of the Earth International" - is developing a campaign for compostaje in the Island of Formentera.

Composting is, without doubt, the best solution for all the organic rubbish, the only way to give back to the earth all the nutritive ingredients that it needs in a natural way.

It is also the first step for the proper selection of the rest of the waste, so, the paper and cartons, glass, metals and plastic, can be collected apart, clean and ready to be send out of the Island and used again.

This is the first time that such experience is being used in the "Pitiusas" and is working out very successfully.

Two hundred and ten families, over fifteen per cent of Formentera residents, have started to compost their organic waste in this first campaign, started only three months ago

To do so, "Amics de la Terra" with the collaboration of the Island Council and the Formentera Town Hall, has provided a hundred special composting containers that are given free to the families. Each receptacle can serve three or four families.

The programme has been organised by the team of "Amics de la Terra-Eivissa" as usual with the leadership of Hazel Morgan, its president. Manel Font is the ecological engineer, responsible for showing all the families how to make proper compost.

The same experts in Calvia (Mallorca) and in Catalonia have already proved the success of this experience. Let's hope that we can see it happening soon in Ibiza, too.

Congratulations to the Friends of the Earth team. Thank you for the lovely and positive job you are doing. Keep on rowing.

José P Ribas

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