Friday, June 13, 2014

The Environment Ministry Is Not Interested In The Environment

In 2009 I invented a term. It was a "lagola". It was an expression for a considerable sum of money, 750,000 euros to be precise, the amount that had been ploughed into making the La Gola wet zone in Puerto Pollensa presentable. The "lagola" (and there was to be a further half-lagola as well) went on cleaning up the water, putting in some nice pathways, some lights, the odd sign and a visitor's centre. It was all part of a scheme to create what was referred to at the time by the regional government environment ministry (under the Unió Mallorquina) and the town hall (under Joan Cerdà of the UM) as a "green heart" in the resort.

Periodically, I have cause to go to the La Gola area. I was there a week or so ago. I had a look. It was in a bit of a state. Grass hadn't been cut, there was rubbish in the water, the visitor's centre was shut, as it has so often been shut. Pollensa town hall, now under the PP of Tomeu Cifre, has also been at La Gola to take a look. What has been observed has led it to declare that the wet zone is a disaster area in the making.

What the town hall is specifically concerned about is the water and the need to keep it from silting up. Some of you may recall the incident a few years back when a whole load of fish died. They had suffocated. Mayor Cifre says that, if needs be, he will order dredging to be undertaken. It is not meant to be the town hall's responsibility. It is the responsibility of the environment ministry. Cifre has accused the ministry of not being interested in maintaining La Gola adequately.

The story of La Gola is far from an isolated one. The money spent on it was not as great as had been the case with other areas of environmental importance in the north, but the "lagola" is, in a way, not what matters. It is what has happened since the initial amounts were spent. Or rather, not happened. La Gola is small compared with these other areas - Albufera, Albufereta, Son Real. Its size is such, one would think, that it should be easier to maintain than the vast acres elsewhere on the bays of Pollensa and Alcúdia, but it has rarely been maintained adequately. The agreement between the coalition of environment ministry and town hall back in 2009 was supposedly clear enough. The ministry would run the visitor's centre and keep the water clean. The town hall would tend to the small parkland. This was a simple division of duties which, almost straightaway, did not work as it should have done. Two months after the new, improved La Gola was opened in the summer of 2009, there was an outcry about the mess and the graffiti.

The town hall has to take some criticism itself, but it is nonetheless right in pointing the finger at the environment ministry. It has failed in other areas as well. In Albufera, the visitor's centre there is also shut. Son Real has been a scandal of neglect by government for years, and a very expensive one too. Santa Margalida town hall has, in the past, had to take it upon itself to undertake maintenance which it is not meant to. A similar situation to La Gola, therefore. And then there is Albufereta, where such is the lack of initiative that guests at the Club Pollentia Resort are invited to make donations. I am all in favour of tourists contributing to the environment, but for goodness sake.

La Gola is, unfortunately, a metaphor not just for three-quarters of a million euros, it is also a metaphor for the various grand environmental projects that have been embarked upon without adequate provision for their subsequent maintenance. It seems too easy to simply blame economic crisis and austerity for this inadequacy. Cifre's probably right. The environment ministry isn't interested.

* Photo of La Gola from 2009.

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