Monday, November 28

Why is Cáceres left without its airfield?

Area in which the aerodrome was planned to be built. / TODAY

Environmental groups, Ecological Transition and even organizations of the Board itself questioned the site for its “significant impact” on flora, fauna and even cultural heritage

Manuel M. Nunez

Cáceres is left without an aerodrome. At least for now. The Official State Gazette (BOE) has today published the resolution of the General Directorate for Quality and Environmental Assessment on the environmental impact statement (DIA). It was signed on May 23 and concludes with a clear disavowal of the project as the DIA itself was unfavorable.

Ismael Aznar, general director of this body dependent on the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, argues that with the chosen location, in the area of ​​Los Arenales between Cáceres and Malpartida, and the measures included in the study carried out by the consultant hired by the Junta de Extremadura “it cannot be ruled out that it produces a significant impact on vegetation, habitats of community interest and bird communities.” He adds that it is also not avoided that “the project causes damage to the integrity of the ZEPA Complex of the Arenales” as well as other nearby spaces of the Natura 2000 Network.

Added to this are other relevant aspects such as the possible risk of impact between planes and birds in the area and “significant effects on cultural heritage that force – it is stressed – to redesign the project.”

The resolution of the environmental declaration also refers to important effects on cultural heritage

The battery of plot elements for this environmental refusal of the aerodrome is served. Not only are the conclusions drawn by the General Directorate of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, there are also environmental groups, bodies of the Ministry itself and even the Junta de Extremadura that express their doubts about the advisability of continuing in the chosen place.

The resolution on the DIA reveals, for example, that the General Directorate of Sustainability, which depends on the Ministry for the Ecological Transition “does not consider the study of alternatives appropriate.” In other words, the work commissioned by the regional administration itself, in this case the Ministry of Mobility, to the company Geprecon, an environmental consultant based in Valladolid that was awarded a contract of about 29,000 euros, is being questioned.

The Board says that zones two and three of the study prepared “are analyzed in a very wide area, with a low level of detail.” Regional Ecological Transition suggests looking for “alternative sites within the area of ​​alternative 1, further from the Los Arenales complex”. Wetlands and their species are seriously compromised by the aerodrome. In addition, environmental organizations such as Adenex or Seo/Biord Life “also show their disagreement with the analysis of alternatives.”

The final resolution maintains that the indications that were already formulated in 2015 by the Secretary of State for the Environment and that forced to rethink the initial project presented a year earlier, have not been complied with. An analysis of alternatives was then approached with the precise incidence of each one of them in flora and fauna, heritage and population. “None of the above specifications has been met in the study of alternatives for the environmental impact study, which constitutes a relevant deficiency.” This is due, adds the resolution, to the fact that it is an area with notable “fragility and environmental vulnerability”.

The data provided includes the elimination of 239,739 square meters of grassland, the removal of more than 25,000 more, effects on the runway over lakes and natural lagoons, wet meadows and possible indirect contamination of ponds.

There are doubts about the study of alternatives and the impacts on the ZEPA and on species of flora and fauna are considered to be serious.

The Ministry for the Ecological Transition considers the loss of these 24 hectares of pasture to be “very relevant”, while the General Directorate of Sustainability of the Board refers to impacts on habitats of community interest such as grasses or Mediterranean ponds. “The effect on vegetation and habitats of community interest has been underestimated in the environmental study,” it is emphasized.

Fauna is also threatened and this is how it appears in the document. The Board itself says, again the Ministry for Ecological Transition, that “species of herons” and “cattle egret” roam and feed in the area. The white stork, the black vulture and the lesser kestrel are animals sensitive to this situation. The DIA alludes to the loss of breeding areas, fragmentation of habitats, elimination of aquatic habitats, loss of more than a thousand square meters of wetlands and the effects on the ZEPA of Los Arenales for the golden chrolith or the stilt, among other species.

It is through the danger of impacts, in addition. «Risk of birdlife accidents with perimeter fencing», is added. Also “risk of collision between birds and aircraft, during the operation of the aerodrome”. White storks and griffon vultures already presented “very high risk” in the previous study.

The incidence in Red Natura is detected, something that the Sub-directorate General for Terrestrial Biodiversity warns when it understands that leisure activities in an area so close to Cáceres “can cause inconvenience to birds.” The General Directorate of Sustainability did clarify that favorable information could be given “provided that a series of conditions are met.” For Ecological Transition, on the other hand, it is not ruled out that the project had “harm” on the ZEPA of Los Arenales and the Red Natura.

One last striking aspect is that from another body of the Board, the Directorate of Cultural Heritage, the aerodrome is conditioned to exclude from it the Los Arenales, El Cintado and a hermitage affected by the runway. The conclusion is that the project “would not be authorizable” in the chosen location from the point of view of cultural heritage.

The resolution of the DIA is final unless appealed in administrative and judicial channels, it is added in the publication of the BOE. A total of 21 organizations, public or private entities and administrations have been consulted. Among those that did not answer are the City Council of Cáceres and the Ministry of Agriculture.

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