IPF: Protecting our Environment
By Jerry Brownstein
The Ibiza Preservation Fund (IPF) has many accomplishments to be proud of during its first ten years of working to protect the island’s ecology. Together with partners from all parts of society they have made progress in numerous areas of sustainability and protection of our natural resources. Sandra Benbeniste is the Executive Director of IPF, and she has been a driving force behind the success of the organization. Under her leadership IPF has perfected a very effective model for making a positive difference. Their purpose is not to single-handedly try to solve environmental problems, because that is neither practical nor sustainable. They have instead developed a system to support, encourage and help organize those who want to make a positive difference in the ecology of the island.
One of their most important programs that followed this model was establishing and funding the Alianza Mar Blava in 2013. Many different groups were against the presence of oil prospecting near Ibiza, but their efforts were not coordinated. It was a perfect example of a problem that needed more organization to galvanize the many groups that were fighting against the drilling. IPF took a leading role in creating Mar Blava (Blue Sea) as an umbrella group that all of the protestors could rally around. The resistance became more focused as the people of Ibiza rose up in protest with huge public demonstrations and massive signings of petitions spurred by the tireless work of Alianza Mar Blava and other organizations. As a result that prospecting was cancelled, and the Alianza has stopped a total of four oil and gas projects in the seas around Ibiza. IPF has also helped to establish a protected corridor for whales and dolphins in the seas around the Balearic Islands.
But like a bad horror film - where the monster whom you thought was dead rises up again - the spectre of new oil prospecting near Ibiza is once again very real. This time the oil companies are using a loophole in the environmental laws to sneak into our waters under the guise of something called MedSalt-2. When a company wants to undertake potentially dangerous undersea acoustic surveys for commercial purposes, they need to file a comprehensive environmental impact study. This was the case in the earlier drilling scare, and after the study was filed it was decided that the prospecting was too dangerous to marine life to go ahead. However, if the undersea prospecting is for scientific purposes, then the company only has to submit a greatly simplified impact study. So this time they are pretending that this is a strictly scientific study so that the government will let them do exactly what they were going to do before.
The MedSalt-2 project proposes to carry out the same type of acoustic surveys that were proposed by the oil companies the first time. These have already been ruled to be of grave danger to marine life - yet the standard for environmental protection has been lowered by this trick of calling the study scientific. Clearly there are oil companies supporting this project, and if oil and gas are discovered they will do all they can to start drilling. The IPF through Mar Blava has once again been at the forefront of the efforts to bring pressure on the government to stop this violation of our environmental protection. Ibiza Dice No!
IPF is also very involved in finding solutions to Ibiza’s mounting water problems. Having enough fresh water has always been a challenge here on Ibiza, but it has become more drastic in recent years. During the past decade greater consumption during the tourist season has depleted the underground water table (aquifers) to such an extent that the natural rainfall has not been enough to refill them. In 2015 IPF supported a study of Ibiza’s water situation that was coordinated by the University of the Baleares. Their research confirmed that our aquifers are heavily contaminated with seawater as a result of overexploitation, and it proposed recommendations for better water management. Following the model used for Mar Blava, IPF helped to create the Alianza por el Agua in 2016, to tackle water scarcity in Ibiza and Formentera. This umbrella group brings together more than 30 stakeholders from public administration, tourism, business associations, local NGOs and farmers to find solutions to the islands’ water issues.
In addition to these two major projects, the IPF is continually working on a number of other important environmental issues. They coordinated a major study of the island’s carrying capacity in 2017, and developed a set of sustainability indicators to be used as the basis for future action. One important factor is the transition to solar energy and electric mobility. Energy consumption on Ibiza has increased by almost 70% over the past decade - yet we make only minimal use of the 300+ days of sunshine that we enjoy. Even countries like Germany, with very little sunshine, are able to produce significant amounts of solar energy, so the potential here on Ibiza is enormous. IPF has funded a study and organised forums to spark debate and action to achieve a ‘100% Renewable Ibiza and Formentera.’
Here are some of the other situations that are being monitored by IPF: The influx of tourism has created a huge increase in waste products. Our current systems are not adequate to handle the increase, and untreated sewage is still being pumped into the sea at busy times. Forest fires are an ever-present danger that the public needs to be constantly made aware of. Protecting our coastline and countryside from over-development is another important aspect of environmental protection. This includes greater awareness of the need for protection of our Posidonia meadows. To this end IPF supported the creation of a marine reserve around Tagomago which was achieved by working in partnership with local governments, fishermen, NGOs, nautical and tourism sectors. IPF always stands ready to support and encourage innovative and practical solutions to protect and improve the natural environment of the island that we love.
For more information please go to their website:www.ibizapreservationfund.org