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THE ELECTRONIC LIVEIBIZA

Weekly Edition 050: Saturday 9th February 2002

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Island Ecology
by José P Ribas

 
2002 Ecotax - Is it the Answer?
 

Before I start with another series of articles, I would like to discuss the actual ecological local situation and the perspectives for this year.

My concern is about what we understand as some of the most important problems for the future of Eivissa-Formentera, such as the "Ecotax."

Then there are the negative and decadent images in terms of ecology that the Islands are gaining quite fast that we have already discussed and denounced in previous articles.

Even these problems are just political decisions, with very little economic cost, at least for the public money and the majority of the Ibicenco society. There has been a continuous debate between the political parties for years and there is a clear opinion among the great majority of the Islands' population asking for drastic changes, still far away of satisfactory answers. More then ever, the objectives of all the local ecological organisations have become paramount for the near future. 

Obviously there are other very important and big problems for the proper and sustainable development of the tourism and the entire society of the Islands. They include the sufficient supply of fresh water and energy at a reasonable ecological and economic cost, the proper collecting and treatment of the residues, the sewerage system, with new and better depuration water plants, new parking areas in town and better roads, the security of the airport, etc.

But, all these problems are far more then just political decisions: they necessarily involve big amounts of money that we haven't got.

Or have we?

Perhaps I should say there is some money, maybe enough, but only if we forget about the old problems and we spend it on new projects, completely necessary for the future of the Island (they say). 

These include such things as the new platform station for the disembarking of the big transatlantic cruisers, being built by the little island with the lighthouse of "Botafoc" just at the entrance of Eivissa harbour. (In my modest opinion, this project may be necessary or not, but for sure it is going to impact very negatively on one of the most powerful "clichÚs" of the Island, one of our most captivating scenes, the emotion of arriving at the old town of Eivissa by ship. The cruisers may bring some more money for some on the Island, but at the very expensive cost of a good part of its beauty).

Very big investments will have to be done for the following four or five years, in the most optimist hypothesis, trying to work out the solutions to these old problems.     

From the Balearic Islands, we know that most of this money needed for the solutions to these problems will not come from the Spanish Government in Madrid. In fact, the Balearic Community (the richest community "per capita" of Spain, they say) pays in tax to Madrid far more then what they invest on the Islands. So, as we say, there is not much we can expect from them.

Nevertheless, there is also money coming from the European Capital, Brussels, but this money already has a clear destination for the preservation of the historical, cultural and ecological values of Eivissa Town, part of it in a very bad state, a real shame for the Ibicenco people. Or the "Posidonia meadows," also declared "Heritage of the Humanity." Nothing or very little will be left for the "domestic problems".   

The "Ecotax", a new tax applied on the Islands' visitors, seems to be the most reasonable and fair way, at least for the majority of local people, to collect the money for some of the solutions of the problems generated by the tourism itself.

These include a big, unnecessary waste of water and energy, the big amount of rubbish left all over the place, the destruction and vandalism with the public gardens and street furniture (plants, lamps, public-seats, traffic-signs, rubbish containers, statues, monuments, etc.) done by the young tourists, the number of extra vehicles that comes with the tourists, private and to rent, leaving the locals without parking room, turning our traffic really chaotic and dangerous, the adding of extra sand done every year to the hotel beaches, paid with public money, etc., etc., and for the preservation of the ecological values for everybody, locals and tourists, to enjoy.

It is completely unfair to charge just the local population with the extra cost of these activities, as has been happening all the time up to now, especially when we can't cope with them all. We can't afford it and the problems grow very fast, the indispensable solutions become more and more expensive every year and they seem to be further and further away.

The way that this tax is going to be finally collected and the cost of the tax per person is yet to be cleared by the "Govern Balear."

Finally the "Govern Balear" (Autonomic Government) has approved the "Ecotax" that, hopefully, will be applied from the 1st of May 2002, not without opposition, with rough and bitter polemics, from the hotel owners and the "P. P." (Partido Popular, political party).

They are basically the same people, the ones who ask for more sand on the beaches every year, larger and more expensive promotions of Eivissa at the international tourist fairs and much better services for their hotels (rubbish collecting, whatever amount of fresh water and energy they ask for, more security by the hotel area, etc.).  Paid for with public money, of course.

On the other hand, the great majority of tourists questioned by local journalists last summer in the airport or at the hotels about the new "Ecotax" really liked the idea and they think it is also necessary to do something about it.

They can see by themselves that the ecological deterioration is growing fast, especially the ones who have been here before in previous years. Most are prepared to pay (the initial cost was more or less about the cost of a beer, in a normal bar, per day) and obviously they also expect to see the good results of it.  

To the locals, the "Ecotax" is a great idea. We will all contribute the residents and also the visitors who come to enjoy the beauty and the ecological qualities of the Islands, to preserve these natural values and a better quality of life for all.

It will not just be us having to pay to clean up after the tourists, and to pay twice the price that we pay for our services, as we would pay if it was only just for us. Some of these tourists can be a business to the tour operators and the hotels, but they cost real money to the rest; they cost us far more then what they spend here on the Islands. We think this is very unfair.

Also we can see in the "Ecotax" a real answer to our needs, a real way to work out our old problems. With the money collected with it, we can start to face them.

It is also obvious that the things have to be done correctly. This tax can't just be paid by the customers of the hotels or the official tour-operators; there are a lot of visitors using illegal tourist-rooms, private villas, camping and boats, with special rates for the cars, that also will have to pay it.

In our opinion, the best way to collect this new tax will be at the airports with the tickets, or as they arrive (residents have different tickets) in the harbours and private marinas, as they come down from the boats, with or without a car, or on the boat itself, including the boat.

The money collected by this new tax must be used or invested on the same island where it is collected and only for the Ecology, to preserve the natural and ecological values and to help to find the solutions to all the ecological problems that we already have, not for new publicity campaigns or for political party promotions.

Am I being too optimistic?

 
José P Ribas
josepribas@liveibiza.com
 

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