SPAIN: After Spain’s senate agreed to grant the imperilled ecosystem legal status as a person, one of Europe’s largest and most endangered saltwater lagoons is looking forward to a less foul future.
Due to inadequate sewage systems, fertilisers, and overflow from mining operations, the Mar Menor, a protected area off the southeast Spanish coast that is separated from the Mediterranean by a 13-mile sandbar, has become polluted. Its waters turned green six years ago when algal blooms wiped out 85% of the seafloor flora.
More than 640,000 people supported a movement to conserve the Mar Menor by having it recognised as a legal “person” that may be safeguarded and preserved by the government and locals as a result of the deplorable conditions in the lagoon.
Its special protection was granted by a law that was approved by congress in July and was ratified by Spain’s senate on Wednesday. This was the first time such a law had been approved in the nation.
In addition to recognising the lagoon’s right to protection, conservation, and restoration, the Act also codifies the lagoon’s right “to exist as an ecosystem and to evolve naturally.”
A council of guardians made up of local politicians, residents, and scientists who operate in the region will now be legally liable for the lagoon’s 1,600 square km (620 square miles) and the neighbouring Mediterranean shore. This should make it easier to protect the lagoon from future deterioration, according to the grassroots organisation that promoted the move.
The Pact for the Mar Menor Platform tweeted, “Today is a day to celebrate. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the Mar Menor has made history. And so have the more than 640,000 people who signed their names to give it legal standing as a person.”
The idea comes after similar actions worldwide that saw waterbodies granted legal protections in Ecuador, Colombia, and India.
A ground-breaking statute giving the Whanganui River personhood status was passed by New Zealand in 2017.
A “mega party” and concert with dozens of boats that took place in the Mar Menor last month prompted Spain’s ecology ministry and wildlife police to launch an investigation to see if any environmental regulations were broken.
The lagoon regeneration plan, at 377 million euros, was revealed by the Spanish government the next month.
The establishment of a 1.5-kilometre (one-mile) buffer zone along the Mar Menor’s coasts is one of the numerous environmental regeneration projects that are outlined to support biodiversity in and around the lagoon.