After the last call for help from the Mar Menor, it was time to look for the culprits. The negative impact of the use of nitrates in Campo de Cartagena on the salty lagoon is confirmed, an implication that the president of the Executive of the Region of Murcia, Fernando López Miras, has not yet recognized.
While the portfolio of measures to recover the Mar Menor is being debated, there is a sector of the population that has spent decades in a continuous struggle between David and Goliath, seeing how the industrialization of Campo de Cartagena not only threatened the lagoon, but also its reputation. and their way of life.
“We are talking about obsolete fertilizers. The problem of nitrates is a worldwide issue. Although here the Mar Menor is warning us,” emphasizes Ramón Navia, an agronomist and farmer in the area. “It is very easy to add nitrates,” explains Navia. “They are very soluble, ammonium nitrate has a solubility of two kilos per liter. They have a negative charge, so the soil does not retain it, which means that what you irrigate today washes away the nitrates you put in yesterday. It is impossible not to contaminate. And all that ends in the Mar Menor. ”
“We are in a situation in which nitrates should be banned. First, too much nitrogen is being used. I practically do not use, I use 35 or 40 units and 170 are authorized. In organic farming, for example, I do not spend any. Why What is not copied? Because ammonium nitrate is much cheaper and it does not complicate life, “he says bluntly.
Antonio Meroño, another farmer in the area, states in a similar line: “Nitrates should be limited, nowadays there are alternatives in fertilizers so as not to have to resort to nitrogen fertilizers with high concentration. Plants need nitrates, but what is necessary to do is limit all this. ” “About 10 or 15 years ago a slow-release ammonium sulfate came out, which does have a positive charge and is retained by the soil. The price difference is ridiculous,” Navia abounds.
“They – the big agricultural companies, the agrobusiness– They substitute the fertility of the soil for a cheap chemical fertilizer, it comes in handy. And when in doubt, more is used, period. There is no way to control whether the authorized amounts are poured or doubled. At most, if there is an inspection, you do not present two or three invoices for ammonium nitrate and everything works out. It’s a childish thing: to think that you can control everything with paper and invoices is childish, “explains the engineer.
Small and medium-sized farmers state that they feel “abandoned” by the administrations, which favor the large farmers living in Campo de Cartagena: “Politically, there has been no other agricultural model. I am quite unhappy with the policy and from it I do not think that no solution is given, “reflects Meroño.
“The agrobusiness they do reach politicians, they even put advisers. They have the capacity to influence politics very seriously, whereas the normal farmer cannot do that. If I or another farmer who has 10 or 15 hectares go, they won’t even let us enter, but a company with two or three thousand hectares does respect it, “laments Navia.
Contraceptives in the Mar Menor
Despite his harsh criticism of the current agricultural model, Meroño feels that agriculture is being used as a “scapegoat.”
“There are direct discharges from nearby towns, there are many videos of Torre Pacheco pouring sewage directly into the Mar Menor. All the sewers in all of La Manga, Los Alcázares, Los Urrutias are salty, what does that mean? If the salty water enters , everything else comes out: there is permeability, “explains Navia.
“When they say that phosphates appear in the Mar Menor, those phosphates are not from agriculture. Years ago, a lot of lime phosphate was added and it has an absolute blockage. Fortunately, here the pH is very alkaline and the phosphorus does not move. phosphates in the Mar Menor is from the sewage system. For many years the waters of Los Alcázares that are treated cannot be reused because they are salty. If the salt has entered the system, everything else will come out. The remains of contraceptives in the Mar Menor are not from agriculture, they are from the sewage system “, abounds in the agronomist, who emphasizes that fixing the sewage system of the entire region carries a cost that the political class prefers” not to mention. ”
“It is also necessary to fix the treatment plants so that there are no sewage discharges into the Mar Menor. Then there are the ramblas with heavy metals from the mountain range of the mines that end there and the aquifer, which is highly polluted,” Navia enumerates.
“The miracle is that there are still fish in the Mar Menor. The problem is not neither the amount of agriculture, but how it is done,” Navia observes. “What cannot be done is not to fix anything. The solution is to stop polluting now. The farmer has the capacity to do so and has plenty of intelligence,” emphasizes the farmer. Meroño is committed to “giving nature a break”: “My area has been completely transformed: species that had completely disappeared have returned.”
“Degrade it down to the penny”
Navia looks back at when the Campo de Cartagena began to become the great irrigation industry that we know today: “I started working in 1984. There was agriculture here that was partly for subsistence, partly for sale. At that time it did not go out to large supermarkets, but to markets: Mercamurcia, Mercabarcelona, Mercamadrid. Some yellow melons were grown, some flat melons were grown, but very specific things. There were some important wells. Although compared to what happened afterwards, it has nothing to do with it. watch”.
At that time, in the eighties, Meroño belonged to a naturalist group: “The articles we wrote about the Mar Menor could be current. Everything comes 40 years late. The inertia of what has been done during these 40 years is difficult to correct in a short time. ”
“There were large farms that were sold, the tahúlla – an agrarian measure used mainly for irrigated land, equivalent to 1,118 m2 – began to be worth more. I remember that in 1985 it was very common to hear that the tahúlla was sold for 300,000 pesetas. And already in 1987 in many places it reached a million pesetas. In El Pilar it was worth up to four million, since there was less land and there was the El Pilar group. They already had a more advanced agriculture because they had good water. The origin of the hundreds of greenhouses are there. Then food speculation came into play and more big companies began to come. Everything grew until it practically collapsed everything, degraded it until it was looking for the penny, “recalls Navia.
“These large companies almost never bought land, or just to make their headquarters. They used to rent. The rent has never been too expensive: it costs about one thousand or fifteen hundred euros per tahúlla. Now many farmers have had to retire renting the land “.
Something that, in Navia’s words, has not only degraded the ecosystem and polluted the Mar Menor, but has also dynamited the concept of land: “The mentality is one of the economy. The farmer himself without realizing it stops caring about the land because he has lost consciousness. The concept of a fertile, inherited land that will be left to the children and must be cared for to make it better are concepts that have been lost. ”