Fuerteventura, a paradise threatened by various projects

04/08/2021 at 10:52 CEST

A landscape characterized by dunes, long beaches and extensive areas of badlands (impassable volcanic terrain) are the natural hallmark of Fuerteventura. But in recent years the island is experiencing strong pressure on its environment, which threatens to modify the characteristic Conejero landscape with urban projects.

In the framework of an economy based on mass tourism, the Cabildo de Fuerteventura has tried to carry out several projects related to the construction of large leisure complexes and luxury hotels in recent years.

But it is not just the brick. There are also numerous projects in renewable energy fields that, due to their size and location, are causing increasing concern.

But the unceremonious economic development in Fuerteventura comes from afar. Specifically, it began in the 90s. On the island, tourism, both in the arrival of tourists and their overnight stays and in the construction real estate business, originates on the island around 70% of the gross domestic product and employs more than 60% of the workforce.

Fuerteventura is considered the Spanish island with the greatest proportional weight of tourism: for every 100 inhabitants, it receives more than 2,200 tourists a year, above Lanzarote or Ibiza. Tourist activity occupies a good part of the eastern coast of Fuerteventura, especially in the municipalities of La Oliva, Pájara and Antigua; in contrast, it is underdeveloped on the west coast and inland.

Despite the fact that the soil is protected with figures such as the Biosphere Reserve or Natural and Rural Parks, this has not prevented many places from falling victims of degradation: Corralejo dunes, Sotavento beaches, some interior spaces of the island, and the vicinity of Puerto del Rosario and Caleta de Fuste, where excess construction has reduced the landscape and environmental value of the area.

Intentona urbanizer

In 2017, the Regional Ministry of Land Management led by Blas Acosta (PSOE), was committed to reviewing the Island Management Plan (PIO) to significantly increase the number of tourist beds and the area destined for industrial and commercial supply on the island.

Fuerteventura had, before the coronavirus crisis, 62,000 accommodation places, more than 160 tourist establishments and about 150,000 tourists came to the island per month.

But even at that moment of prosperity, the Insular Council was already hiding itself in the “difficult economic situation & rdquor; that crossed the island to defend this growth and “unblock the strategic investment in tourism”.

That Insular Plan, whose approval met head-on with the opposition, proposed to create up to 12 tourist areas, in some of which there was not yet a single building. Ultimately, the new modifications were left on the table and were never carried out or included in the PIO that came into effect in 2020.

Dreamland: the macro-complex of cinema

After trying without luck to establish itself in Tenerife and Gran Canaria, Dreamland, a macro-leisure complex for film lovers, focused on the island of Fuerteventura, where it is currently trying to find accommodation, not without difficulties.

The business was round, because the low price of the rustic land allowed the developers to buy the land for the macrostructure of this cinematographic city at a ridiculous price. It is a space that is located just 400 meters from the Natural Park of the Dunes of Corralejo.

The project has an execution budget that is close to 77 million euros, and it would not only consist of a center dedicated to post-production work and special effects of the world audiovisual industry, but it would also become a true amusement park with hotels, restaurants and museums.

Why not build this complex on urban land? Although the developers hide in the best location of the chosen point, the reasons seem to be purely economic, since the price per square meter in urban land is much higher.

To get to work, only the declaration of Insular Interest of the Cabildo de Fuerteventura was needed, which, however, did not go ahead due to the position of the opposition parties and, even, of the partners of the Socialist Government.

The initiative also ran into the Ben Magec-Ecologistas en Acción de Canarias collective, which considers “that rustic soil must be cared for, and even improved. Do not look for legal shortcuts to dedicate it to industrial purposes & rdquor ;. For this reason, they insisted that “for this type of activity there is already enough urban land or industrial estates with free areas & rdquor ;.

As a possible remedy to this fight of interests, the mayor of Puerto del Rosario, Juan Jimenez, has now proposed locate the macroproject in the municipality that houses the capital of the island.

“Puerto del Rosario needs ambitious projects of this type, given the points in favor that its start-up would entail in our municipality and, in addition, it could be installed on common rustic land in the municipality & rdquor ;, he assured on Onda Fuerteventura in mid-March. It is still a mystery where that project will end, which continues to hang over the island like a sword of Damocles.

Renewables are primed with nature

Although renewable energies are the great global bet to achieve decarbonisation, in Fuerteventura their implementation is turning into a real nightmare.

The wind and photovoltaic parks built and to be built threaten the natural landscape, with an increase in installations that far exceeds local demand. In the capital of the island it is planned to install a total of 22 wind farms, which represents 2.6 million square meters. Across the island, it is also intended to install another 51 photovoltaic parks, which will take up a space of 4 million square meters.

The photovoltaic production of these parks is estimated at about 217.30 MW, while that of wind power could be 227.63 MW. In total, almost 450 MW for a population that, at its maximum demand – when there is tourism – only needs 76 MW.

The engineer Roque Calero, who has studied the implementation of renewable energies on the island, stated in a Radio Sintonía program that at the moment “everyone comes to ‘hunt’ land to the islands, not only to install renewable energy in the future, but also to increase the value of these companies & rdquor ;.

The engineer considered that the collaboration of the island authorities is necessary to stop this voracious tourist development that threatens to destroy the natural and unspoiled landscape of an island in the middle of the Atlantic.

And a caravan campsite in a protected area

On the other hand, just three months ago the Cabildo declared of social interest the construction of a caravan campsite in the Piedra Playa area, in the town of El Cotillo. It is a protected area as a Special Bird Protection Area (ZEPA) and integrated into the Natura 2000 Network.

Although the promoter presents the project as “a specialized camp for birdwatching and sports tourism & rdquor; and integrated into the “ornithological ecotourism modality & rdquor ;, Ecologistas en Acción has highlighted the impact it will have.

This ‘ecocamping’ will consist of five wooden cabins, an area for treatment plants, an enclosure for caravans and tents and a capacity for 200 people.

In short, wide sectors of island society fear that a tourist and urban boom is taking shape that threatens the natural and scenic wealth of an island that has always been characterized by its tranquility and authenticity.