Society 18/03/2021

Neighbours, environmentalists, and farmers with a common goal: to save the Llobregat delta

They call for a halt to urban development projects and the expansion of the port and the airport until the protection ordered by Europe has been delimited

Elena Freixa
3 min
The area of fields of Prado de Llobregat where the construction of a housing development has already begun

The precarious situation of the Llobregat delta has prompted a warning from the European Union (EU) for governments to strengthen their protection. Neighbourhood, environmental and farmers' organisations have united on Wednesday to demand that the threat of sanctions from Brussels be used to stop the projects underway until the actions requested by Europe have been carried out. One of them is to extend the current protection zones, according to Pere Bonet, one of the spokesmen of the neighborhood organization Ni un Pam de Terra. "We cannot continue to look the other way in the face of the degradation of an area of great agricultural and natural value", added Maria Garcia, of Zeroport.

The paralysis of infrastructure expansions such as El Prat airport and the port of Barcelona is part of the red lines that the entities - SOS Baix Llobregat, Unió de Pagesos and Depana - have agreed on, united in the goal of pushing for better protection of the delta and its environment. "We don't have to continue with expansion policies that have a huge impact not only on the environment but also on society", said Garcia, who called for a halt to the construction of the third runway and for a change that would make these mobility and tourism activities compatible with the reality of a climate emergency and a crisis "of energy and material resources".

However, the brake, which the residents of El Prat and the farmers are calling for, must also be extended to urban development projects already underway that could compromise the protection of the area because they are close to the delta. This is the case of the construction of more than 1,200 homes in the Eixample Sur area of El Prat, a development that is "in an area of fields that is a transition zone and which should be included in the future extension of protected areas", Bonet asked. The platform Ni un Pam de Terra criticises the position of the City Council of El Prat and the Generalitat - promoters of the houses - and claims the natural value of the fields, where for the past week excavators have been preparing the land for construction. The organisation has already tried unsuccessfully to stop the project through a motion in the municipal plenary and now appeals to the Minister of Territory and Sustainability, Damià Calvet, to act "coherently" with the promise to extend the protected areas that he made a few weeks ago. Bonet regrets that the administrations use "environmentalist propaganda" while activating projects that date back to the "real estate boom".

An area of fields where a development of 1,200 flats has been planned in El Prat de Llobregat.

Sources of the City Council of El Prat defend that the construction of these homes is done on urban land that is not "agricultural or natural", but a "private wasteland". The same sources argue that the flats - 50% social housing - will ensure a "friendly transition" of the city to the Agricultural Park with green areas where now there are wastelands and "improper" activities take place.

The entities argue that in an environment like the Llobregat delta, subject to so many pressures from urban activities, each hectare -and the use that is made of it- are crucial. The new development of 19 hectares -some of them still had crops until recently- "will reduce by 40% the agricultural area of the municipality", according to Marta Morató, from Ni un Pam de Terra, who rules out that the housing need has to be solved in this way.

The extension of the perimeter to be protected in the Llobregat delta must, according to the organisations, follow the reference mark set by the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) number 140 delimited by the environmental organisation Seo Birdlife, which would mean stopping development among other actions. The NGO Depana, which took the case for protection of the area to Europe, insists that the birds, like agricultural activity, "are running out of space". Its spokesman, José García, has remarked that the area of crops and protected space for birds has gone from 1,000 hectares to 100 hectares since the Delta plan was approved in the 1990s - with the new mouth, among others - and that the new urban development will take another bite out of this area.

The platform with the organisations Ni un Pam de Terra, Zerosport, SOS Baix Llobregat, Unió de Pagesos and Depana, was held on the Bunyola road in El Prat de Llobregat, next to where the machines have been working for a few weeks on the ARE Eixample Sur construction site, which plans to build more than 1,200 homes.