Up to 185 social, environmental and union organizations, united under the acronym Pacto por el Mar Menor and SOS Mar Menor, have appealed to citizens in the Murcian capital at 8:00 p.m. to flood the streets and denounce the ecocide that it suffers from the largest salt lake in Europe, the Mar Menor. The demonstration that has gathered tens of thousands of people, has begun in two different points of the municipality -Delegation of Government and the Palace of San Esteban, seat of the regional Government- with the aim of appealing to all administrations to converge later in the Plaza de la Fuensanta and finish jointly in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Water, Agriculture, Livestock and Environment in the Plaza Juan XXIII. There a manifesto will be read and the song ‘Sol y sal’ by Nunatak will be heard, which has become the anthem of the struggle for the Mar Menor.
Since last August 16 fish and crustaceans began to appear on the shore of the Mar Menor, the Murcian Executive went from not admitting in the first days that a second anoxia was taking place – lack of oxygen in the water due to excess nutrients from agriculture – to blame again and again for the pollution problems that the lagoon has suffered for more than three decades on the central government and, in particular, on the Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera. Due to these political tensions, the organizers have asked that there be no political representative at the head of the demonstration and that they do not wear badges that identify them. In fact, there are volunteers from the organizations watching in case the veto of party acronyms is breached. The leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón, and the federal co-spokesperson of Verdes Equo, Florent Marcellesi, have announced their participation in national politics.
Up to 50,000 people came to demonstrate in Cartagena in 2019 after the first anoxia suffered by the lagoon. Thousands of people also ’embraced’ the Mar Menor surrounding it from end to end on August 28 in a protest called by the Mar Menor Popular Legislative Initiative platform, under the slogan “for a living Mar Menor” in the face of the crisis situation it is experiencing. the lagoon due to spills from uncontrolled agriculture with five tons of dead fish.
María, Santi and José come from the Murcian municipality of La Unión to demand solutions for the salty lagoon. All their lives they have spent the summer in Los Nietos, a town that borders the shore of the Mar Menor. “More than grief, it makes us angry, because here there are those responsible; 80 percent of the powers belong to the Community, if only for allowing the lagoon to become contaminated and deteriorate.” They argue that you should not go against farmers but still have to “stop the dumping.” As they approach the point of the demonstration, they point out that “there is someone who has been here for 26 years,” referring to the Popular Party, which has governed the Region for a quarter of a century.
In addition to the environmental dimension, last Wednesday the UGT and CCOO unions estimated at 50,000 direct and indirect jobs that are at risk due to the degradation of the Mar Menor. The Secretary General of the UGT, Antonio Jimenez, revealed that a study conducted by his union concluded that there are 37,000 direct jobs and another 13,000 indirect jobs that could be affected due to the worsening of the lagoon, especially in agriculture, commerce, hospitality and tourism in the four riverside municipalities. His counterpart from the Workers’ Commissions, Santiago Navarro, warned that this condition would also spread to the rest of the Region of Murcia.
Pedro Gracía, from the Asociación Naturalista del Sureste (ANSE), who has also attended the demonstration, tells this medium that what is happening today is a “cry for solutions; it is not the first time that we go out to ask for solutions, and we hope this time we get it. ” García has spent 20 years together with other colleagues denouncing the nitrates from the agriculture of Campo de Cartagena that contaminate the lagoon.
Ángela García, who represents Mar Menor Vivo and Banderas Negra, defends the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) that wants the Mar Menor to have legal personality. A legal alternative that would provide the lagoon with rights, which could be defended through the courts. After getting the Congress of Deputies to accept the proposal – which the Government of Murcia rejected – the promoters of the Initiative have had nine months to collect half a million signatures, with the aim of having it debated and voted in Congress. The deadline ends on October 28 and close sources assure that they have broken the ceiling of the 400 thousand signatures: “Yes or yes we must manage to give rights to the Mar Menor, and we will achieve it.” As the protesters walk the streets of Murcia, fed up with the dying state of the Mar Menor, dozens of notaries from the ILP continue to collect signs.
As the demonstration progresses along the programmed route, the main artery of the city, Gran Vía street, does not seem to have an end. Mara, a 19-year-old girl, accompanies her grandmother at the demonstration. Both are perplexed by the state of the Mar Menor, in which they have spent a good part of their lives. “She remembers it fondly and does not understand how the administration has been able to allow this,” laments Mara. Along the same lines, Aarón, from Elche, complains, who has come to Murcia alarmed by the “inaction” of which he accuses the administrations. A protester armed with a loudspeaker chants slogans that people reply. Throughout the tour you can hear claims such as “What kills the Mar Menor is prevarication”, “López Miras we want solutions”, “We are like the Sea, we are not going to stop”, or “Responsible to prison, ecocidal resignation “.
Among the dozens of social groups that have joined the demonstration are the residents of the roads, concerned about the lagoon and the support of the people in their hardest moment: “When they wanted to put up the wall and did not want to bury the arrival from the AVE, all Murcians took to the streets: today we are doing the same thing again “. A neighborhood victory – they finally got the high-speed trains to pass ‘under’ – which they hope can be repeated.
Ana and Nicolás, 66 and 76 years old, have come from the Catalan municipality of Mataró. They have family in the Region and have spent their summers all their lives in the salty lagoon. In fact, they witnessed how the cold drop of October 2019 triggered one of the massive deaths of marine species. In each demonstration that has been carried out in favor of the Mar Menor, both have been present and have traveled from Cataunya. The couple lament how the lagoon has been allowed to reach its current state. A feeling similar to that of Verónica and Ana, who, accompanied by their dog Toby, have approached the demonstration to demand solutions “that the politicians promised two years ago, a time in which they have not done anything.”
The Murcian Government warned a few weeks ago that the Mar Menor was once again facing an “advanced process” of anoxia, and demanded that the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (Miteco) dredge the Marchamalo gorge: a channel that connects the salty lagoon with the Mediterranean. A controversial measure that did not find support in the scientific community, beyond the own components of a monitoring commission of the state of the Mar Menor dependent on the Ministry of the Environment itself.
The closure of the demonstration, in front of the Ministry of the Environment, has been accompanied by a speech of protest against political inaction. “We are here this afternoon because, this summer, the Mar Menor again spat in our faces the mistreatment and indifference to which it has been subjected for so many decades,” says angrily Pilar Rubio, a member of the Pacto del Mar Menor platform. From the groups that have organized the demonstration, they ask the State Government not to “grant the competences of Coasts to a Government that ended the 1989 Mar Menor Law and unprotected thousands of hectares to allow their urbanization.” In addition, they demand that the Segura Hydrographic Confederation (CHS), dependent on the central government, and the Autonomous Community, “proceed urgently to the dismantling of the more than 8,000 ha of illegal irrigation, those that they claimed did not exist, as well as the application of the intensive agriculture control measures approved in the Mar Menor Law “-.
Six other cities, both in Spain and in Europe, have shown solidarity with the environmental situation of the lagoon and hold support rallies at the Schuman station in Brussels, the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, the Plaza de Arriaga in Bilbao, the Quiosco del Boulevard in Donosti, the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in Pamplona and in Valencia, a demonstration leaves the Town Hall square and ends in Torres de Serranos under the motto ‘La Albufera with the Mar Menor’.