How to deal with coastal development pressures on Ramsar Sites?

How to deal with coastal development pressures on Ramsar Sites?

21 December 2010

From 28 September to 1 October 2010, the Ramsar Secretariat executed its 68th Ramsar Advisory Mission. Four experts, representing the regional authorities of the Balearic Islands, the Spanish Ramsar administrative authority (Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs) and the Convention Secretariat, assessed the conflictual situation created by the development of a golf course in a former dune area at the edge of the coastal Ramsar Site N°449 S’Albufera de Mallorca. The Mission analysed in situ the likely impacts of the golf course development on the ecology and hydrology of the wetland ecosystem and provided advice about the possible sustainability of the golf course project at this location, making reference to the need to apply well-established Ramsar and national legal instruments. The experts met with a number of stakeholders, including the tourist infrastructure developers, municipal and regional authorities, members of the regional parliament, scientific experts and NGOs, in order to obtain a full and comprehensive picture of the issues at stake.

The members of the RAM visiting, together with the developers, the site of the starting works for the golf course in the ancientdune system “Son Bosc” of the S’Albufera de Mallorca coastal marshes.

Based on these interviews and ample documentation provided by different sources, the Mission formulated 12 concrete recommendations in their report that was formally approved by the Spanish Ramsar Authority (see PDF report in Spanish). In a nutshell, the report concludes that the ancient dune system affected by the golf course development is a functional part of the Ramsar Site ecosystem of international importance, and that it is therefore advisable to rapidly restore its degraded functions for the sake of the unique elements of Mediterranean biodiversity that depend on this particular site. The report further proposes to establish a dialogue between the different interest-groups to find sustainable tourist development solutions for the Balearic Islands, in order that the many tourists can benefit from sufficient infrastructures while still being able, notably at the edge of the summer beach season, to fully profit from the island’s exceptional landscape and biological diversity.

A report by Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe