Murcian justice has ten lines of investigation open about the Mar Menor and the causes of its dying state. Through a statement, the regional Prosecutor’s Office has echoed the open procedures, which are in different phases: five of them are in the hands of the Civil Guard and the Prosecutor’s Office itself, dedicated to gathering information; Another four are in Examining Courts, in which a more in-depth investigation is being coordinated for possible criminal offenses; and one of them is being processed by a Contentious-Administrative Court.
The pioneer of the defense of the Mar Menor: “Giving environmental competences to López Miras would be a suicide”
Research lines of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Civil Guard
Thousands of dead fish: On August 14, dead marine species and plants began to appear in the Mar Menor, causing a new anoxia similar to that of October 2019. The Murcian Court of Instruction number 1 has open investigation proceedings to get to the bottom of the matter and purge criminal responsibilities. The investigations began as a result of a complaint from the Ministry of Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and the Environment, and are awaiting requested reports.
Opening of the gola ‘Marchamalo’: five days after the appearance of dead fish and plants in the lagoon, the president of the Community, Fernando López Miras, proposed to open the gola de ‘Marchamalo’, a water channel that connects the Mar Menor with the Mediterranean, with the object of expelling the anoxic pocket to the open sea. A measure contrary to general scientific criteria, and which meant that Ecologists in Action denounced the regional government for said proposal.
Complaint against Teresa Ribera: the first reaction of the Murcian Executive was to deny anoxia in the salt lake, and blame the new death episode on high temperatures. The following was to file a complaint against the Government of Spain, against the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, and against the Segura Hydrographic Confederation (CHS), for alleged omission and lack of diligence in the action of the Quaternary aquifer -by the that discharge the nitrates of the crops of the Campo de Cartagena-, and by the non-withdrawal of the mud in the Mar Menor. These proceedings will be forwarded to the State Attorney General’s Office.
Obstruction and favor deals: Another of the lines of investigation are those related to a complaint from the Association of Southeast Naturalists (ANSE) to the Ministry of the Environment for obstruction of irrigation control in the surroundings of the Mar Menor and for alleged family interests of the counselor of said portfolio , Antonio Luengo Zapata. The newspaper echoed the alleged favor deals and the environmental platform’s complaint The truth: ANSE assures that the councilor himself worked as head of plantations and quality of an agricultural company in San Javier managed by an uncle of his, something that the leader has denied.
Lack of control in discharges: The Cartagena Area Prosecutor’s Office has an open investigation following a complaint by the CHS to the City Council of the aforementioned town for alleged lack of control of wastewater discharges to the Mar Menor produced from an urbanization of the town called Bahía Bella. The investigations are extended by the State Attorney General’s Office for missing the practice of some procedures.
Judicial proceedings under investigation
‘Topillo case’: The Examining Court number 2 of Murcia is finalizing the preliminary proceedings of the ‘Topillo case’, the main judicial procedure that seeks to purge criminal responsibilities for the state of Mar Menor, and with a line of investigation open since 2017. The Prosecutor’s Office indicates that The processing of the case is being finalized, in which a former regional councilor, two members of the CHS -a president and a water commissioner-, and 41 natural and legal persons irrigating in the area are involved, having opened a separate piece against other 43 irrigators.
Discharges into the Crystal Sea: In Cartagena, and after numerous procedures carried out since 2016, investigations are being finalized for spillage into the Mar Menor in the Mar de Cristal area, following a complaint filed by the Prosecutor’s Office itself.
South arch: The Public Prosecutor’s Office has formulated an indictment for a possible crime of prevarication against a former councilor of the Murcia regional government and a former director general, for some works to channel nitrate discharges from the Albujón riverbed -which flows into the Mar Menor – towards some facilities of the irrigation community called Arcos Sur. At the end of 2020, the Prosecutor’s Office has already requested twelve years of disqualification from public office against Adela Martínez-Cacha -ex Minister of the Environment-, and Andrés Martínez Francés -ex-general director of Water- for creating said channel without having the environmental impact assessment with the pretext of the emergency in diverting the spills. The court case has been open since 2018.
Veneciola canal dredging: the Court of Instruction number 1 of San Javier is processing proceedings related to an unauthorized dredging at the entrance of the ‘Veneciola’ channels in the Mar Menor, through an area called ‘Las Encañizadas’. In June 2020 it was warned that the opening of said channels they were causing damage to the lagoon, and they pointed to the man’s hand when opening them. When it was reported, the Ministry of the Environment sent inspectors to assess the impact on the lagoon.
Sanctions for irrigators
Last May, the Prosecutor’s Office filed a lawsuit against the Murcian Ministry of the Environment, after refusing to process a series of files of environmental responsibility against those who caused the contamination of the Mar Menor and the Campo de Cartagena aquifer, which in turn empties in the lagoon. The Minister of the Environment portfolio assured on several occasions that it was not his competence to sanction irrigators, but rather to the Segura Hydrographic Confederation. The demand of the Public Ministry came after a year of margin granted to the Ministry to require ten companies investigated in the ‘Topillo case’ to assume the economic cost of recovering the areas degraded by their activity in the basins that flow into the lagoon .
The Prosecutor’s Office has echoed the appeal filed against the dismissal due to administrative silence, not receiving a response to the claim made to the Environment portfolio, and ensures that it can sanction irrigators based on the Environmental Responsibility Law 26/2007 . The procedure, which is being carried out through the Administrative Litigation Chamber of the Higher Court of Justice of Murcia, is in process.