Quality tourism means environmental destruction

Ballermann, concrete castles, cheap tourism. The Spanish vacation island of Mallorca wants to shed this image. Quality tourism has been used for years, but its impact on the environment is even more serious than that of mass tourism

Researchers from the Ruhr University in Bochum clearly deny whether quality tourism is more harmful to the environment than mass tourism. In a long lasting study they have analyzed the changes in Mallorca. For quality tourism in Mallorca. Ballermann was better, the researchers also compared aerial photographs over a period of more than 40 years and came to a frightening conclusion: Where originally the pine forests, olive or almond groves, steep cliffs and shrub heaths typical of Mallorca were to be found, so-called residential tourism has now spread into the interior of the island.

Quality tourism means environmental destruction

A comparison of aerial photographs of the Puig de sa Sirvi (municipality of Calvia) south of Santa Ponsa from the years 1968, 1990 and 2004 shows at first glance the shrinking of the natural and cultural landscape in favor of quality tourism. Pictures from the study "Quality tourism in Mallorca

Urban sprawl has been increasing since the 1990s, when quality tourism was introduced and sold under the name of nature conservation. This was the only way to make the inclusion of new areas palatable to the population, in the face of growing opposition to tourism. Quality tourism should limit mass tourism and environmental degradation without leading to financial losses.

Since then, second homes with swimming pools, golf courses, yacht and sports harbors have taken over the entire island, while mass tourism is limited to restricted areas on the coast. This is accompanied by a strong loss of the original landscape and ultimately the recreational value – even for tourists – and the sale of the island, say the researchers.

Destruction of entire areas and increasing water problems

Some towns, such as the second largest Calvia, already have more registered second homes than first homes. Two forms of tourism can be identified here, golf and nautical tourism, which are based on a greater variety of vacation offers, away from the classic seaside tourism. In 1990 the first golf course was built, now in Calvia there are already 5 of a total of 18 that cover the entire island. More than 20.000 second homes exist here and there should be even more, according to the mayor of the conservative People’s Party (PP) Carlos Delgado Truyols. For the May local elections, he is campaigning, including in German, for a policy that would "Without complexes" is advanced. The rough "tourist potential" must be used to "To achieve equalization of the tourist season". This means more residential tourism and further sealing of rough land. For this, Delgado has abolished parking fees, reduced property taxes by 20 percent, and in Calvia, textbooks are free of charge.

But the price is high. Besides the disappearance of biotopes and the destruction of entire areas, the water problem stands out. Where every lawn is watered and every pool filled, water consumption increases enormously. Per capita consumption in municipalities like Calvia is up to four times higher than in rural municipalities. With the need of only one golf course, a normal town with 8.000 people can be catered for. "The ecological balance of groundwater recharge and extraction is lost in Mallorca in the long term", the researchers note. Between 1989 and 1999 alone, demand had increased by 20 percent. The further increase in extraction also leads to the increased seepage of seawater. The salinity of groundwater reached values five times higher than the level at which water is considered drinkable. Only a desalination plant defused the situation temporarily.

Quality tourism means environmental destruction

Yet this quality tourism does not even pay off, the researchers say: "The additional income from quality tourism is disproportionate to the monetary and environmental costs of establishing it". In 2001, golf tourism and nautical tourism accounted for only a good 6 percent of total tourism income. "Mass tourism generates much higher revenues with much lower landscape consumption." The ruling conservatives repeated the mistakes of mass tourism development at a high price and prestige level once again. The future is bleak, as land use planning even allows for a tripling of the island’s population.

"Save Mallorca"

On 17. Marz called the platform Salvem Mallorca) and the environmental organization GOB to demonstrate to protest against the destruction. The slogan was: "Stop the destruction – Save Mallorca". About 50.000 people responded to the call and Mallorca experienced one of the largest demonstrations in its history. As early as 2004, 40.000 people have protested against the destruction of the countryside, and it appears that awareness has also grown as the destruction has continued.

Quality tourism means environmental destruction

It was striking that the protest was not directed against the package tourists, but mainly against the mentioned urban sprawl: "The politicians have decided to make Mallorca the second home of Europe," said GOB spokesman Miquel Angel March. "This requires highways, a coarser airport, more power plants and clear plants." And these are precisely the projects that the conservative regional government wants to push forward. Construction bans in specially protected areas are to be dropped, the airport is to be expanded and will have an annual handling capacity of 38 million passengers by 2015. 133 million euros is to be spent on a new freeway route, which is only approved by just under 7 percent of the population, and a second freeway ring is also to be drawn around the island’s capital Palma.

In the past four years, 200 million euros have been invested in the expansion of the road network. Highways were built to Andratx, which also made international headlines because the PP burger master of the place, popular with German celebrities, left jail on bail only a few weeks ago. With Eugenio Hidalgo, however, the Director General for Spatial Planning Regional Government of the Balearic Islands Jaume Massot (PP) was also arrested at the end of November. They are accused of abuse of office, corruption and money laundering. It is suspected that the conservatives are not only privately enriched, but that their People’s Party (PP) illegally finances itself through building permits and bribes.

"Absolutely irregular" are licenses with "false certificates" It was possible to obtain permits through the twitching of checkbooks, which even made it possible to build in nature reserves around the municipality. Even the president of the regional government is involved in the affair. There is much to suggest that Jaume Matas (PP) warned his party colleague about the raid. In the gauze garbage cans around the mayor’s office were seized numerous documents, which should be quickly withdrawn from the access of the investigators. Matas had to admit, after days of denials, that he had secretly met with the mayor two days before the raid. The opposition calls on the head of the government to resign: "Matas lied from day one", said Francina Armengol, a socialist opposition leader. While the PP demanded that the ie not be used for party political purposes, the Socialists (PSOE) announced further charges because there were similar incidents in many municipalities. There have also been raids and arrests in the Spanish resorts of Marbella, Telde and Orihuela.

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