“The Central Government has not invested a single euro to avoid the catastrophe of the Mar Menor”

The problems affecting the largest saltwater lagoon in Europe, the Mar Menor, are dragging on due to political disagreements. This summer could prove to be a very complicated season once again. Rectifying this situation is an urgent task that, if not carried out, may become irreversible
Luengo Consejero Murcia

Fruit Today Magazine spoke with Antonio Luengo, the Region of Murcia’s Minister for Agriculture.

Has agriculture become the scapegoat in the problem of the Mar Menor?

In the case of this department, the problem of the Mar Menor is essential. The scientific community has been working on it for decades. We cannot accept the fact that society believes that agriculture is responsible for what is happening to our saltwater lagoon and cannot let this mantra continue.

For years, farmers have been undertaking an important reconversion process to demonstrate the sustainability of the Campo de Cartagena area and of the Region of Murcia. We are perfectly aware that, if we are not sustainable, we will not be competitive and will therefore not be able to sell our produce. We must acknowledge the great effort being made by farmers in the Campo de Cartagena area.

The Regional Government has set in motion 4 legislative frameworks to regulate the activities being carried out in this area. We must acknowledge that the agricultural sector is the one that has been asked to make the greatest effort, involving all types of measures: humidity probes, perimeter hedging, etc.

It is not logical to criminalise a strategic sector that is doing things very well. I would therefore like to ask everyone to act sensibly.

Could you explain what the problem is with the Rambla del Albujón watercourse?

For 4 years, we have tried to make society understand what is happening in the Rambla del Albujón watercourse. The cause-and-effect relationship has been demonstrated by scientists and this is the third time that the pumping station has been stopped, which is designed to reduce the amount of water reaching the Mar Menor. And every time that this happens, it has ended up in a situation like that of 2019, the year when the station was at a standstill. At that time, the degradation of the Mar Menor rose exponentially.

As long as water continues to enter from the Rambla del Albujón watercourse, the great effort being made by farmers will prove to be futile.

I do not mean that this is the first cause, but the scientific community claims that it is very significant, since this is extremely fresh water that has a very high concentration of nutrients.

Every week, our department measures the flow of water entering the Mar Menor and we have seen that the installation has been stopped since the third week in March. Work has to be carried out urgently to get the pumping station working.

The Albujón is the Region of Murcia’s river with the second-highest volume of water. All that has to be done is for the Spanish Ministry to apply the infrastructures and pipes. Some of these infrastructures are already underway.

How does your department feel when the Minister Ribera spends money on other kinds of projects?

Up until now, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition has not invested a single euro in the Mar Menor. The current vice-president has been aware of the problem for 4 years. In September 2019, we explained to her the importance of the Albujón pumping station and the thesis that the scientific community defended, in order to lower the aquifer and stop water entering the Rambla. Four years later, we are still in the same situation. We are most displeased with so much inaction on the part of the Central Government; they have tried to mix us up and start an argument about responsibilities. In the end, we were proved to be right about the actions of each administration.

This is a political problem that is not being left to those who know, the scientists. The Central Government could not care less about what the scientific community thinks.

An attempt is being made to criminalise agriculture and the Regional Government itself. The former as the cause of the problem and the latter for permitting it.

The truth is that we have the most restrictive law in Europe and, probably, in the world as regards agriculture in the Campo de Cartagena area.

We are working with farmers by training and informing them and, up to now, we have trained more than 2,500 professionals.

 

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