The Mar Menor has made history in the Spanish and community legal system. The Senate has approved this Wednesday the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) that recognizes legal rights to the lagoon, thus culminating a two-year process in which a citizen platform led by UMU professor Teresa Vicente Giménez collected more than 640,000 signatures. The complex parliamentary procedure, processed by urgent means, has been successfully closed to convert the contaminated wetland of the Region of Murcia into the first natural area in Europe with its own legal entity. The ‘Law for the recognition of legal personality to the Mar Menor lagoon and its basin’ will enter into force when it is published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), in the coming days, and will allow anyone to file a legal action in her name.
The vote has been resolved with the rejection of the veto raised by Vox, the rejection of an amendment by the PP so that the inclusion of the UPCT in the scientific committee provided for in the new standard would be clearly stated in the text, and the approval of the Popular Legislative Initiative with the unanimity of all the groups, except Vox, with 230 supports. There were 3 votes against and 30 abstentions.
Attentive and excited, members of the promoter group of the ILP, displaced to Madrid by bus from the Region, followed from the hemicycle the debate on this legal avant-garde initiative of uncertain course when it was presented in August 2020 but that has finished its processing with a complete success. Everyone breathed easy when the PP amendment was rejected, the approval of which would have meant a delay due to the return of the legal text to Congress for its retouching before being sent back to the Senate.
After 4:30 p.m., the Upper House gave the definitive approval to a law promoted by civil society in response to the ecological deterioration of the Mar Menor, suffered over the last four decades by mining, urban and agricultural discharges, in addition to a abusive and uncontrolled urbanism. An accelerated environmental collapse in the last six years, when the eutrophication of its waters due to the accumulation of nutrients became evident and which attracted the attention of world public opinion as a result of several episodes of fish mortality.
The session opened with the debate on the veto for the Mar Menor to have its own rights raised by Vox. His senator for Murcia José Manuel Marín Gascón justified this rejection by considering the ILP “a legal nonsense” and “an anti-democratic and totalitarian beach bar of the extreme radical left to plunder funds.” He admitted that the environment must be “respected, maintained and cared for”, but denied that people must “submit to the domination of ecology”. He also announced an appeal of unconstitutionality.
In response to the refusal of the entirety of Vox, the socialist senator Fernando Lastra Valdés applauded the arrival of the ILP, which he justified “not because of a failure of all for the defense of the Mar Menor”, but of those who have had “full powers in environment, agriculture and land use planning, something that would shame any government”, he opined. He recalled that the measures to protect the lagoon “have been clearly insufficient to prevent the collapse of the Mar Menor” and warned that “the eyes of the Europe of rights are looking this morning at these Courts.”
Giving “the rattle”
“Only you know the rattle that I have given here with the Mar Menor when it played and when it did not play”, began his speech by the Senator from Caravaca for Citizens Miguel Sánchez López, who also pointed out that the “ILP is a response to the problem that we have created the politicians”. “Nitrates have not magically appeared in the Mar Menor nor has this happened in a short period of time,” he added. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Mar Menor is dying, and that is an incontestable reality, due to the eutrophication process it is undergoing, due to the accumulation of non-organic nutrients, especially nitrates.” And the report was recalled by the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament that calls for a sustainable reconversion of agricultural activity and control of urban activity.
“The Region of Murcia without the Mar Menor would be like Granada without Sierra Nevada, Huelva without Doñana and Asturias and Cantabria without the Picos de Europa”, he warned before recalling the damage that the Murcian wetland has suffered in its flora and fauna, as well as “the dead fish on the shore, an episode that can be repeated at any time”. «Today is not the day to throw things at our heads, but to join without a single ‘but’ or a single amendment to the ILP signed by more than 640,000 people from civil society who have stood up to the neglect of politicians and They have taught us a lesson.”
The aquiline senator of the Popular Party, Juan María Vázquez Rojas, expressed his group’s respect for the more than 640,000 signatures that endorse the Mar Menor ILP, “a wake-up call” so that “we continue to advance in the mechanisms for safeguarding and managing one of the most valuable ecosystems in Europe. He called for the Zero Discharge Plan, “which the socialist government has kept in a drawer”, and defended “an agriculture of the 21st century unfairly identified as part of the solution”.
“The regulatory development of the ILP is not going to be easy,” he warned, and “the challenge of adapting the proposal to the Spanish and European legal framework is not minor, as well as the diffuse governance regime of the new law.” “We trust that it will be a law that knows how to integrate, and not separate,” he proposed.
Sardines in the Perdiguera
Francisco Bernabé, from Union, also for the Popular Party, claimed that he has lived next to the Mar Menor since he was born, “a little over 52 years ago”, and recalled family experiences and his boat trips to all corners of the lagoon, as well as the sardines he used to eat on Perdiguera Island, “in one of those beach bars that incomprehensibly brought down a socialist government.” He also defended the massive removal of organic matter this summer by the regional government as the reason why “the waters of the Mar Menor are better than in many years.”
“We must prevent fresh water loaded with nitrates from entering a state-owned channel,” he claimed, and ended his speech asking for support for the ILP by reciting the chorus of the song ‘Sol y sal’ by the Cartagena group Nunatak, which is It has become a hymn that is played at all protest rallies over the poor state of the Mar Menor.
On behalf of the Socialist Parliamentary Group, Lourdes Retuerto recalled the condition of “historic day” and blamed the successive governments of the PP for abandoning their functions in the face of the aggressions that have led to the ecological degradation of the Mar Menor. He also reproached the Popular Party for the elimination in 2001 of the protection law approved by the PSOE and thanked “the thousands of people who altruistically have given their all in the Mar Menor ILP”, and especially its main promoter, Teresa Vicente.
Necessary and exciting on paper, but a challenge on a day-to-day basis. The new law that grants legal rights to the Mar Menor emerges as an unknown in the legal system because never before has legal personality been granted to a natural area in Europe. And the lagoon, despite the fact that it has suffered attacks from different origins for decades, theoretically has protection figures that should have prevented its environmental degradation.
Because, in addition to the management plan approved in 2019, due to its status as a space belonging to the Natura 2000 Network, and the protection and conservation law of July 2020, the lagoon is included in the international Ramsar agreement and in the Zepim network (Specially Protected Area of Importance for the Mediterranean).
The ‘Law for the recognition of legal personality to the Mar Menor lagoon and its basin’ adds new bodies whose role will have to be specified in the face of possible complaints that any citizen may raise.
“The ILP does not change the place of filing complaints, but rather facilitates a new legal argument,” environmental lawyer Eduardo Salazar, one of its editors, clarifies to LA TRUTH.
Three figures will exercise the legal representation of the lagoon and its governance: a committee of representatives of thirteen members (three from the State, three from the Autonomous Community and seven from the promoter group of the ILP); a monitoring commission, the guardians of the Mar Menor (with members from each of the riverside town halls and from the business, trade union, neighborhood, fishing, agricultural and livestock, environmentalist, gender equality and youth sectors); and an “independent” scientific committee – the law specifies – of researchers “of recognized prestige” who will not charge for their advisory work.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.