ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY OF THE ISLAND OF IBIZA
In 1997 ECOCIENCIA carried out and completed its first project, with the title, ESTUDIO AMBIENTAL DE LA ISLA DE EIVISSA ("ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY OF THE ISLAND OF IBIZA"). It was carried out in collaboration with the "Centre d´Estudis Ambientals" of the "Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona."
Authors: Ester Condal Congost, Gemma Condé Cros and Vivian Gomez Royo, young graduates of Environmental Sciences of the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.
This study was presented by its authors in the College of Journalists, Barcelona on the 22nd of October 1997. Present were BEN BEECKMANS, president of ECOCIENCIA, JOSEP ENRIC LLEBOT, director of the CENTRE D´ESTUDIS AMBIENTALS and JORDI BARTRULI ex-director of the CENTRE D´ESTUDIS AMBIENTALS and Vice-Rector of the UAB.
On the 26th of November 1997, the project was presented in Ibiza in the Club Diario de Ibiza by BEN BEECKMANS and GEMMA CONDE.
The main object of this project is to give a description and a general evaluation of the environmental situation prevalent on the island and to discover the main environmental problems and their causes.
This is the first environmental study of the island with these criteria. Other projects and studies related to the environment have been undertaken, but no general study exists which covers all aspects which affect the environmental state of the island and its conservation.
To date very few environmental studies of the island have been carried out and these not only lack follow-up data - of great importance in environmental work - but are also completely out of date.
In order to have an overview of the environmental state of the island, various levels of study have to be carried out.
In the first place an analysis has to be made of all the economic, social and environmental factors in order to obtain an overall picture of the state of the island.
Afterwards, due to the great differences existing between different parts of the island, groupings are made of bioterritorial units displaying similar characteristics. These units are designated on the following criteria: predominant use of the land, density of population, landscape, areas of special ecological interest and degree of tourism.
The determined unit areas follows:
Els Amunts, mountainous area of high ecological interest and of limited human pressure.
South East Litoral, coastal fringe of sandy beaches, densely populated and affected by an intense rigidity and overexploitation of resources.
Humid zones of limited surface but of great ecological importance due to the presence of a large number of ornithological fauna.
San Antonio Area, densely developed although to a lesser extent than the South East Litoral.
South West Litoral, rocky coastal area scattered with numerous second homes due to the influence of touristic development in the San Antonio Area.
Interior Areas, primarily agricultural areas affected by the proliferation of scattered second homes.
Sa Talaia, mountainous, agro-forestall area around the island´s highest mountain.
A description of each area is made showing the main impacts to which they are exposed and a proposal is made as to which aspects should be more deeply studied.
The next step is to study the most important environmental vectors of the island. Using the results of this study an integrated graph is made making it possible to visualize, artificially, the environmental state of each unit.
Due to their insularity the islands have certain characteristics which distinguish them from continental regions.
From an economic point of view, expansion is conditioned by the limitations of natural resources and the dependency on imports of exterior sources. This significantly affects the efficiency of the local economy, which implies a greater vulnerability.
From an ecological perspective the isolation from continental areas and their relatively small size determine a greater diversity in their ecosystems. On the other hand, these conditions create a scenario where the impacts are both more intense and more noticeable due to the fact that the capacity for auto-regeneration in insular systems is far weaker.
Until the island was promoted as a tourist destination, Ibiza functioned as an auto-sufficient system. From the 60´s on, tourist development created a demand for a series of services in terms of materials and energy; this substantially altered the growth dynamics of the island. The sole economic dependence on the resource "sun and sand" significantly increased the anthropic pressure on the area, squandering the limited water resources, reducing the available land area, fragmenting the territory (in particular the natural systems) and considerably simplifying the insular ecosystems.
Tourism has a very clearly defined "before and after" role in all sections of social, economic and environmental life. The tourism of the present has affected the sustainability of the island and has generated a series of impacts deriving from a policy of speculation which prioritizes short-term economic benefit. The type of development occurring at the moment is unsustainable for the island as a whole as well as on a local level, the "over-expansion" is a global process based on over-exploitation of human resources, the degradation of cultural diversity and the irreversible damage caused to the environment. This unsustainable form of development, which is based on economic materialism and consumerism, is directed towards objectives which permit short term economic benefits at the expense of the collective interest not only of the population of today but also of the future.
In this way the island has been developed lacking any form of former planning or coordination, with no thought given to, nor control exercised, over the impacts produced in the abiotic and biotic environment due to territorial politics, above all where these constitute the essential base of the touristic offer.
So, although tourism opens up new opportunities, especially for small islands, providing income and employment, at the same time it causes serious damage to the environment, culture, monuments, the local population and even the quality of the self-same sector, especially when the number of tourists goes beyond its capacity.
To improve this situation a change will have to be made to the actual development model of today. To do this it will be necessary to change its bases. In the first place this implies a substantial change in the concept of the tourism that prevails on the island. Important would be a move towards a less intense tourism, this does not mean a tourism with greater spending power but rather a tourism with a greater concern for its surroundings, more interested in other aspects (not only "sun and sand") such as historic value, culture and ecology. This implies a more diverse tourism, better distributed in time and space, relieving the enormous pressure placed on the littoral areas, particularly Ibiza, Sta. Eulalia and San Antonio. Thus over-exploitation of resources that takes place during the summer months could be reduced, maintaining the quality and "sustainable" capacity of these areas for a greater length of time.
In the same way, and as a result of the integration of the principal environmental vectors within the pattern of touristic development, its management would directly generate an improvement of the present environmental state (particularly in the residual and the water vectors) and consequently of the quality of the tourist services.
In enhancing the environment as an attractive tourist value, we obtain a system of auto-regulation and conservation of the natural resources with the quality and longevity of the touristic offer in direct proportion to the conservation of the island´s natural systems.
This study was co-sponsored by AVIACO, ROTARY CLUB OF IBIZA and the HOTEL ROYAL PLAZA of IBIZA.