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The wetlands of Pals

The before and after of these wetlands

The Pals wetlands, one of the richest environmental areas on the coast in Catalonia, has endured 46 long years of struggle to protect its natural values from urban sprawl that still continues. Discover the chronicle that recounts the confrontation between scientists, conservationists, promoters, administrations and courts until it became the trigger for the creation of the current Natural Park of Montgrí, the Medes Islands and the Baix Ter.


Rice fields of Pals – Photo: Aitor Romero.

The district of Pals, which is about 25 square kilometers, has a third of land that is wetlands, land that floods when there is heavy rain. These lands with an important aquifer are those that touch the Torrent and Sant Feliu de Boada thermal springs,the Marisc Wetland, the camp Bregat and all the fields that go from the road from Pals to Torroella de Montgrí, until the Municipality of Fontanilles and Torroella, and to the sea.

The inhabitants of Pals in ancient times were used to these marshes and lived from them, they collected the typical plants of wetlands and exported them. One of them was the balca, a highly prized plant already in the time of the Greeks, who brought it to their factories that were distributed throughout the Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages, the people of Pals hunted and fished there with royal permission, because those lands and waters were the property of the Counts of Barcelona. Those wetlands had fresh water full of nutrients, brought by the rivers Ter, Daró and the streams of Peratallada and Pals. Due to those circumstances there was a large amount of fish and crustaceans and in the muddy grounds the birds found a lot of food; the hunters, hidden in the middle of the reeds, could hunt ducks and other species in order to survive.

But in the midst of so much wealth, the inhabitants of Pals and nearby towns, such as Palau-sator and Fontanilles, they had to periodically endure great plagues of malaria that decimated their populations. Pals itself had an average of more than 100 people dead during some years, many of them from infection from mosquito bites. In 1505, Ferdinand II gave permission to the inhabitants of Pals to open the Rec des Coll and remove a large part of the water from the Marisc pond. During the following centuries, more irrigation and runoff were made to dry the land and be able to cultivate it but, for a long time, those marshes were only closed where cows and mares grazed.

In the best lands, for more than 500 years, rice was planted without interruption, but, due to stagnant water, large epidemics of malaria occurred and its planting was prohibited; when this happened, those fields that provided so much wealth to the population turned back into closes and reedbeds, continuing the problem of stagnant water and malaria. It wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century that this problem was solved with running water irrigation, and above all with good drainage.

The old lakes of Pals and Boada – Photo: Ramon Fortià.

THE LAST VIRGIN POND

Of the 8 square kilometers of ponds, after they were semi-dried to plant rice at the beginning of the 20th century, only a small pond by the sea remained. They were the ancient remains of a large lake that in Roman times was called "Dodoni", in the Middle Ages "lake de la Torra" and later Vernagar pond. That small pond called "Les Illes” was sandwiched between the Massot, the maritime dunes and the rice fields, and are the remains of ancient exits of the Ter and the Daró to the sea. Today these small gaps are called the "Basses d’en Coll” to be, at the end of the 19th century, Mr Pere Coll Rigau the last owner who bought a part of those wetlands.

At the end of 1976, a manifesto was made public, signed by eight scientists from Barcelona in favor of safeguarding space. A few days later, the Congress of Catalan Culture, which continued the campaign for the Protection of Natural Heritage, publicly denounced the lack of protection and the danger that this area of wetlands was in. In the document, the biological interest, the natural beauty and the cultural and historical values of this area were expressed, asking for its protection in order to be able to save it, since that place was threatened by the urbanization of a campsite and a residential marina.

Basses d'en Coll. Location on Google maps, here – Photo: Ramon Fortià.

SUPPORTERS OF APPROVED THE PROJECT

On the other hand, there were other groups that were in favor of this project. On January 5, 1977, a request was submitted to the Pals City Council with 400 signatures supporting the approval of the Plan because it would channel the last section of the Rec del Molí de Pals, solving most of the floods that took place periodically and denied hundreds of hectares, causing a lot of damage to the farmers of the region, to the point of having to ask the authorities to declare a catastrophic zone; the easterly winds very often caused strong storms and covered with a cord of sand the outlet of the Rec del Molí water, which raised the water table in all the nearby areas, losing some crops and ruining the farmers who had of continuing to pay the taxes of those lands.

With the canalization of Rec del Molí, the exit of the water to the sea would be solved, preventing the formation of the sand bar and leaving the land suitable for cultivation throughout the municipality of Pals. The channelization of Rec del Molí would also make it possible to recover a large part of the beach, which was greatly reduced by the installations of Radio Liberty, which were not accessible to the public.

radio-liberty-amplifying-liberty-from-pals-beach-antennas-sea-view
Aerial view of the Ràdio Liberty complex, 1970 – Photo: Joan Cebollero.

THE WETLANDS IN DANGER

Narcís Jordi Aragó he wrote in the Hoja del Lunes of January 10, 1977, saying that Icona said that the future would be a disaster in the endless chain of threats that the so called progress was projecting on nature on the Costa Brava. It was now the moment to turn and save the still virgin wetlands at the end of the Daró river, which were part of the old lake. They had planned a macro urbanization that would eliminate one of the last wetlands on the Costa Brava. It was only a week ago that the head of Icona de Girona, Salvador Alemany, made some interesting statements about the wetlands in his demarcation with express reference to Pals. He said that the ecosystem that formed that area had such a variety that it would be a real disaster for the province if it disappeared; he added, just as he had done Depana, that "at some point you had to say enough. Some of the things we had found we should leave them the same, uncontaminated, to future generations. They hoped that the International Commission on the Environment would rule on the appropriate measures for the conservation of one of the last wetlands on the Costa Brava.”

In Pals there were a total of 310 species out of the 400 that could be found in Europe

On the other hand, the Board of the Society of Hunters and especially its president, Jaume Parals Grassot, without being a hunter, who at the same time was deputy mayor, that same week lifted the hunting ban on 20 hectares of that area, which for many years had been declared a Comprehensive Hunting Reserve. This activity would inevitably cause the dramatic decrease of the rich fauna that could be found in those wetlands, since it was the exceptional nesting and hibernation refuge, where a total of 310 species of birds could be found out of the 400 that they could find in Europe. To everyone, the deal the Hunters' Society had made was inexplicable.

The vegetation that could be found on the fairly well-preserved banks consisted mainly of salicornias, rushes, ashes, sea flowers and tamarisks. In addition, you could find rare and unique species in our country, such as the pteridophytes and the plantation.

In terms of fauna, the area presented two points of interest, the ornithological and the fish. As an area of wetlands, it was a place of passage for migratory birds, so at certain times of the year it is possible to find almost all the aquatic species in Europe. In addition, it enjoyed an important colony of native species, becoming an important nesting site.

Common harriers, coots, red grouse, harriers, little martins, grebes, coots, green-necked ducks, red-billed ducks and many others were frequent in these areas. The other center of interest was fishing, mainly for eels. These could be found at the mouth of the river, looking for a way to go upriver. Eels are the offspring of the eel, a fish that lays eggs only once in its life. They crossed the Atlantic to spawn in the Sargasso Sea, and when they are ready it takes between two and four years to reach our shores. The eel is a very resistant animal, which can easily live more than 60 years. For the inhabitants of the district it was customary to have an eel in the well to know if the water was drinkable.

Also, despite being faced with such an obvious danger, large quantities of fish such as flounder, sea bass, roach, or Raja miraletus could be found in the middle of the muddy waters...

THE COSTA BRAVA TOURIST COMMUNITY

With the increase of popular mobilizations in defense of the natural heritage, the Costa Brava Touristic Community made a public statement on the urgency of making a Costa Brava Management Plan, decided democratically and aimed at a more rational and collective nature.

In those last months, Girona's counties had reached a high degree of awareness about the destruction of the territory, and several campaigns had taken place to safeguard various places that were under the immediate threat of speculation, such as the coastal lagoons in the bay of Roses, between the mouths of the Muga and Fluvià rivers, where the Port Llevant company intended to build an urbanization with navigable canals on an area of 525 ha and with a capacity for 64,000 people.

The Tourist Community was on the sidelines of some of the criticism of those campaigns, especially for its inhibition regarding the dangers of destruction of those places. But the Community believed it necessary for the Provincial Planning Commission and the town councils to maintain a strict application of the laws in force until the proposed General Plan came into force.

The Tourist Community of the Costa Brava made a public statement on the urgency of making a Costa Brava Management Plan, decided democratically and aimed at a more rational and collective use of nature

Continuing with this, on January 29, 1977 the Defense Groups of the Empordà Wetlands, part of the Heritage Protection of the Congress, held a colloquium conference in Pals on the salt marshes in the Empordà and their importance. The act took shape in the reclaiming of the Basses d'en Coll and the mouth of the Daró river at Platja de Pals, where a development project had recently been presented to make a residential marina and a marina in a place of salt marshes that was a rural area, which the Pals City Council wanted to deny.

The meeting was held on Saturday night in the old hall of Josep Bofill Pericay, known for the "Rajoler de Pals", in Carrer Enginyer Algarra, located in front of Can Camps. It was a room built in the 1930s that had been used for all kinds of events, such as theater and to celebrate major holidays, quintos; they even used it to spread the rice to dry and I remember also seeing representations of the Shepherds there. It had not been used for a long time, it was dusty and full of cobwebs; the decorations hung torn from the stage and perhaps that was the last act held there, since it remained closed until a few years ago, when it was reopened to host a clothing store.

The old theater, which that day accommodated just over a hundred people, was the only place in the town that could be found after, one after another, the organizers were denied a room to celebrate the event, and the disappearance of many of the posters that announced it and that had been distributed and hung throughout the town.

Despite these setbacks, the session was carried out in the middle of great tension due to the distribution of the attendees into two sides that could not see each other. After someone turned off the lights several times the discomfort reached maximum heights. The wooden chairs were scattered all over the place, the news of the meeting had spread like wildfire and everyone who was interested attended.

The old theater of the Rajoler de Pals, seat of the controversial meeting - Photo: N. Subirana.

Four members of Congress explained the importance of wetlands, emphasizing their contributions and opinions from international scientific conferences, showing some slides.

During the discussion, the organizers were often overwhelmed by those who claimed to be representatives of the farmers, who believed that if the work were carried out, many swaths of land would be protected by a dike that would control the level of the water that had caused many misfortunes over the centuries.

The ornithologists present were in agreement with the construction of the dyke but not with the urbanization, because with the construction of the buildings no birds would go to the wetlands. "It's false, it's false!", a voice in the middle of the audience said again and again: "There won't be any more drying, it's more: there will be new contributions of water and more cleaning", they heard Jaume Darné, who was the secretary of the Parera-Coll familly.

"Les Basses d'en Coll and the end of the Daró river were not permanent rustic areas, but a semi-intensive city-garden"

Passion and demagoguery, more than rational thinking, caused some exciting phrases during this meeting. But one of them had a special interest. The deputy mayor said it Jaume Parals Grassot, who was in charge of a big company of public works machines. He said that "the Basses d'en Coll and the end of the Daró river were not permanent rustic areas, but a semi-intensive city-garden", a fact that was also ratified by the Municipal Secretary.

Surprise, great surprise produced the news because, according to the plans held by the Provincial Urbanism Commission and the Girona Delegation of the Ministry of Housing, those areas were marked as in the category of rustic area and included as such in the General Plan of Pals.

The urbanization project that at that time was on public display, aside from the very negative impact it would have on the wetlands, the land was classified as a permanent rustic area and therefore, where urbanization was not allowed. Pals had to be left without a beach, or what is the same, without public access to it. At that time the accesses were privatized by the Golf Club and for the facilities of Radio Liberty and for an urbanization on the coast that was already underway. Of more than 2 km of beach, only about 50 meters would be really public. The law indicated that the strip of beach was a public good and that passers-by could not be denied the right of way.

THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

The editors of an article said that the town was like Sicily in Costa Brava, an suffocating silence had fallen on Pals. "I don't know anything" and other expressions of the same style were said when journalists asked for information in the town. Mafia silence, like everything, wasn't new.

That silence certainly dates back to the post-war years, when the contraband it had its origin in Mallorca and a very important terminal in Pals, where they had even had a landing stage with barbed wire. The fraudulent goods supplied by the last pirate of the Mediterranean were taken from the beach in trucks.

Mafia and caciquisme were the words most heard by those who dared to shed some light on the investigations carried out by journalists. No one knew how the banners announcing the Congress Session had disappeared, no one knew why premises were not given to hold that session; no one could explain the power outages. Shortly after the arrival of the members of Depana in Pals to investigate the ornithological fauna that was in danger, people were already aware of this. No one knew who was responsible for moving the terrestrial maritime limit from its initial position. No one dared to complain to those in charge: small forest owners had to pay 1,500 pesetas per versana in contribution just because someone was interested in being able to build apartments in the forest and that whole area of Rodors and les Jonquers was declared buildable.

No one knew anything, but in the end the young people who were in the Congress Session made their voices heard without fear of anyone, making it understood that Pals was struggling to get out of the silence, imposed and suffocating. Despite the fact that, with the lack of silence, certain attitudes would reach the category of public scandal.

ARCHITECTS AND APPARATORS AGAINST

The Avui newspaper of February 3, 1977 published the opposition to the Urbanization Plan in Pals. The Girona Delegation of the College of Engineers and Technical Architects contested the Partial Planning Plan for the estate and opposed the urbanization project in that area.

The project that was exposed to public information provided for the development of a garden city for more than 7,000 inhabitants, opening canals, draining wetlands and building a marina with 1,800 moorings. All this involved the destruction of all the marshes and wetlands, which were of indisputable ecological importance.

View of Empuriabrava (1976-1980) illustrating the type of macro urbanization with water channels and marina that was intended to be built in Pals – Source: online file.

The College of Doctors and Graduates was also against the private use of that space. In a statement made public on June 20, the Environmental Group of the College of Doctors and Graduates of Catalonia denounced the intention to privatize the Empordà wetlands, the last strongholds of the Costa Brava for thousands of migratory birds The vindication of that area was not accidental, given that they were the last natural spaces in a region that had been full of wetlands until their destruction began under agricultural pressure. That area represented an irreplaceable wealth for the community, and the graduates stated that the current state of affairs would only end with popular participation.

That campaign to defend the wetlands had the support of most environmental groups and the campaign for the Protection of Natural Heritage of the Congress of Culture.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE WETLANDS

A professor from the Department of Botany at the Central University of Barcelona mentioned in some statements the botanical interest of the area, the second most important in Catalonia after the Ebro Delta. In addition to rare species, there was a whole particular ecosystem also quite rare due to its scarcity in the country and natural force.

Among the vegetation of the marshes, a series of birds could find refuge there that spent the winter there or stopped over on their migratory journeys. This was one of the most decisive arguments when demanding the conservation and protection of this area of the coast.

The preservation of that last stronghold was an international responsibility because its disappearance would break the balance in bird migrations, which were not exclusively ours and came from other areas of Europe where they had favorable ecological conditions, such as the Camargue French, one of the continent's most important biological reserves. The Costa Brava Tourism Board, after the many anti-popular actions, complained, asking the delegate of the Ministry of Information and Tourism to intervene in the face of ecological problems and destruction of the environment. They said that until then there was a war between who built the tallest building and who built the largest marina and the most expensive moorings, and the board of trustees wanted to intervene with matters that went against the country. Because not only the coast had to be put in order, but the whole country. The Mr Ensesa, who was the president of the Board of Trustees, stated that they had reached a point of environmental degradation so great that it was intolerable, and that if he had to promote what was unpromotable due to the state in which it was, he would not do so.

The preservation of that last stronghold was an international responsibility because its disappearance would break the balance in bird migrations.


The Grup de Defensa of the Aiguamolls de Pals made a technical report that helped to understand the social and ecological importance of that place, because it would be very sad if one day students had to be taught about wetlands, their flora and fauna through photographs and films . Another point was the one that referred to the cultural, historical and landscape importance of the place. Future generations could not be deprived of this small remaining sample of the true image of the Empordà, just as the wetlands had to be protected for their beauty and because there were fewer and fewer of them left.

DEPANA CONTESTED THE PROJECT


Depana Depana, which formed the league for the Defense of Natural Heritage, when faced with the exit of that territorial and urban planning project in Platja de Pals, it was obliged to challenge it.

The Platja de Pals, more than 3 Km long and still unspoilt, had the second most important area of wetlands on the Costa Brava, of great interest for its ecological balance. A first work with a serious impact to facilitate the future urban complex was to divert the lower course of the Daró river from Gualta, a diversion that was said to be largely responsible for the floods that had taken place in the last month of May and that were so harmful to agriculture.

Basses d'en Coll where to the right we can see the diverted Daró river - Photo: Ramon Fortià.

The first of the challenges was addressed Depana against the Chief Engineer of Coasts and Ports of Catalonia, where he stated that the sector affected by the Pals Partial Planning Plan included the Basses d'en Coll and the mouth of the Daró river, wetland sectors of a high geological, zoological and landscape interest.

The second point wanted to denounce the urbanization of coastal marsh areas, the loss of which was something irreversible that would contribute to the deep degradation of the coastline.

In the third point, Depana argued the various managements at high levels that were carried out to conserve and protect the entire area of the Costa Brava.

The study by the Inter-Ministerial Environment Commission of the complete file of the Costa Brava for its conservation, Icona's proposal to declare the wetlands of the Empordà protected natural spaces and the future Territorial Master Plan of Coordination of Catalonia had to be coordinated in the counties of Girona. When they were about to approve, the threat appeared that affected the whole of the wetlands of Basses d'en Coll, the end of the Daró and all the surrounding land.

In the fifth point, Depana pointed out the natural interest of these areas, which were part of the set of natural systems of the CIMA that it had ordered to preserve, together with other points on the coast.

The recently appointed first President of the democratic Government of Spain, Adolfo Suarez, was on holiday 500 meters from Sa Riera beach, invited by the German businessman Van del Walle, in August 1977, together with other ministers such as the vice-president and minister of defence Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado and the third vice president Fernando Abril Martorell, in what was called "the little Moncloa", ecological and scientific groups drafted a Manifesto delivered on Sunday to the impressive Van del Walle house where he was staying, today in ruins. The letter called for the Costa Brava urbanization projects to be stopped, which proposed a speculative occupation of the land and did not benefit tourism.

RESIGNATION OF THE PROJECT

In the second half of September 1977, the news came out that the developer of the Platja de Pals development had given up on the development of the wetland area. The developer had planned to invest 2.5 billion pesetas in four years, but given the economic situation in Spain, the company had decided to withdraw definitively.

Thus the Platja de Pals Management Plan was stopped thanks also to the challenge that Depana had made public, and the most positive aspect was that in the not too distant future part of the wetlands would be saved. Wetlands that were a former paradise for migratory birds and the cultivation of rice, many of which had already been drained in past eras in order to take advantage of the land and avoid malaria and other diseases for which there were no defenses. Despite this, the vegetation on the banks of Platja de Pals was quite well preserved thanks to the facilities of Ràdio Liberty, which prevented the construction of urbanizations and the destruction of the dune environment. On the contrary, the installation of the station prevented nature lovers from being able to enjoy its contemplation with the paradox that when you could go there it was destroyed, and when it was preserved you couldn't go there.

“IN PALS THERE ARE NO WETLANDS”

In a double-page report, the Punt Diari of August 25, 1982 said on the front page that "In Pals there are no wetlands to protect" and that those who located wetlands in Pals could only do so from an office. Of all those birds that said they could be found in the marshes, the mayor Jaume Parals Grassot president of the Society of Hunters, he said that he had never seen one, and that if they wanted to make a law to protect the wetlands, let them do it, but that they should protect the wetlands where they were, that if they looked at it the terrain they would see that there was nowhere in Pals. That the alleged marshes of Pals did not appear on any map, not even in the army's cartography.

El Punt Diari, August 25, 1982.


Pals town hall meeting interrupted by the protests of some residents and defense groups of the Pals wetlands.

Faced with such a contrary reaction from Pals City Council, the conservationist organizations -the Baix Empordà Pere V Study Center, Iaeden and Depana published a statement in which they said that denying the existence of wetlands in Pals meant denying the evidence and that in no case should protecting the area affect the normal activity of the peasants. Aware that there was a reason for urban speculation, and faced with the refusal to accept the protection of the area and the existence of wetlands in Pals, the farmers were used for speculative purposes.

In August 1985, the controversy surrounding the wetlands continued. The City Council, which had marked the area as non-developable, in the 1985 General Plan, by express decision of the mayor Pere Servià Costa, turned the wetlands into Urbanizable Not Scheduled. The Partit Socialista, ERC and many others, entered numerous pleas to defend the wetlands. Although the majority believed that the Pals wetlands were a unique natural space and should have all the measures allowed by law, the area was excluded from the Wetlands Protection Act.

The defenders of the wetlands complained about the lack of dialogue with the City Council and the arrogance of its mayor Pere Servià Costa, highlighting the fact that the scientist Ramon Fortià he had obtained an international appointment for his research work on the wetlands in Platja de Pals and had never been congratulated by the Consistory.

The trucks of the construction company of Jaume Parals they advanced unstoppable, illegally taking the sand from the dunes of Pals beach during night and day, damaging its flora and fauna, which they dumped on a forest area of great environmental value with wetlands and mangroves, unique in Catalonia, to build a marina residential with thousands of moorings and second residence buildings for 6,000 people, where Camping Playa Brava was later located due to the impossibility of urbanizing the wetlands.

The illegal works continued until, on the morning of Saturday, August 23, 1986, two devices exploded in the company Servià Cantó S.A., in a terrorist attack with significant damage to the control room of the Portland plant, the electrical system and damage to five of the company's trucks, claimed by the pro-independence organization Terra Lliure in phone calls to the various media, stating that the action "had been carried out to warn the mayor of Pals, Pere Servià, owner of the company, that the wetlands will be a natural park."

URBANISME PROTECTS WETLANDS

On April 15, 1997, the Urban Planning Commission implemented the implementation of a Judgment of the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) which provided for the reclassification of some 60 hectares of land as Non-Developable and of special protection of the Pals beach wetlands, previously classified as Unscheduled Urbanizable.

The Director General of Urbanism pointed out that with that modification of the Aiguamolls on Pals beach, the Generalitat did not foresee any further protection for this space, but they were definitively delimited within the Areas of Natural Interest Plan. With that modification, the Pals General Plan that the Commission had approved on May 14, 1986 was automatically modified.

SENTENCES OF THE TSJC AND THE TS

The Judgment of the TSJC of February 28, 1990, appeal no. 1353 and 1362/87, suspended the General Plan of Pals, declared the wetlands unbuildable and ruled that that area had to be of special protection. The Court accepted the contentious administrative appeal filed by six individuals and the ERC, PSC and PSUC parties against the denial, by the Commission of Girona, of the appeal they had previously filed against the General Plan of Pals for not meeting adjusted to law and because they declared the land in the Islands sector as Non-Programmed Urbanizable. That was the first time in Catalonia that a court forced the Generalitat to comply with the Natural Areas law.

The Superior Court Judgment was very important because it recognized that rustic spaces such as the Pals wetlands were not residual, but had values that had to be defended. That Law established a regime for the protection of wetlands that is tougher than that of the rest of the State.

The simple fact of the existence of a wetland meant that, from a scientific point of view, that area was automatically protected and the administration could not act on it. Joan Hontangas, councilor of Pals City Council, stated that the sentence strengthened the position he had always defended and made a mockery of the position of the government team and the mayor Pere Servià. They also had to review the protocols with the owner and return the part that the City Council had already collected, because according to the Judgment the owner could not do any kind of building.

The simple fact of the existence of a wetland meant that from a scientific point of view that area was automatically protected and the administration could not act on it

The Minister of Territorial Policy and Public Works announced that the Generalitat would not appeal the sentence, but the promoter did Playa Brava SA, led by Baltasar Parera and the City Council of Pals, with the Convergent mayor Pere Servià.

A Judgment of the Supreme Court of April 23, 1996, appeal no. 4636/1990, declared the Pals wetlands a protected area, ending the conflict over the future of this space that had dragged on for 13 years. The court ruling forced to modify the General Urban Planning Plan of Pals, approved after many controversies in 1986, which classified 30% of the wetlands referred to the courts as urbanizable. The ruling is based on the Natural Areas Law promoted by the Parliament of Catalonia. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the City Council of Pals and the company that planned to develop that area, which they had presented against the ruling of the TSJC of 1990, which ordered the protection of the municipality's wetlands.

According to that sentence, ratified by the Supreme Court, the wetlands were an area automatically protected by the Natural Areas Law, promoted by the Parliament of Catalonia in 1985. The sentence established the existence of a genuine legal status of wetlands of Catalonia, the protection of which did not require, unlike the state, a specific declaration that determined any specific place as a space to be protected.

Ramon Fortià, expert scientist investigating the values of wetlands, and member of the Grup de Defensa dels Aiguamolls del Baix Empordà, announced that he would ask the Department of the Environment of the Generalitat to delimit the area to be protected in the Areas of Natural Interest Plan, since the PEIN was a basic and elementary rule.

PARLIAMENT APPROVED THE NATURAL PARK LAW

The Law on the sixth park of the Girona counties was approved in May 2010, with 70 votes in favor, 59 against and 3 abstentions after a process that had had the frontal opposition of farmers, the tourist sector of the area and a series of councils, led by the mayor of Pals Joan Silvestre Albertí.

During the amendment procedures, the reinforcement of the guarantees for the promotion of agricultural activity was achieved throughout the Park and the Partial Natural Reserve of the Aiguamolls of the Pals beach. The Decree had to be drawn up to designate the members of the governing body of the Park and to define the management body and the technical team. The Government had 2 years to draw up the Special Protection Plan and then 1 year to approve the Uses and Management Plan, which defined the various permitted activities, but unfortunately they have not yet been approved, endangering its conservation.

In that new Parc Natural del Montgrí, les Illes Medes i el Baix Ter, Pals contributed 571.13 hectares, although the mayors of Pals and Palau-Sator questioned the investment of 22 million euros promised.

El Punt Diari, May 13, 2010.


THE NATURAL PARK, TODAY

The most important threats to the Natural Park in Pals at present, although some are due to the increase in turbidity and eutrophication of the water due to the excessive use of fertilizers and phytosanitary products, or due to the lack of a lamination pond to purify the water discharged from the rice paddies that make it difficult to maintain the turtles population in Les Basses d'en Coll (Trios cancriformis) and other amphibians, birds or invertebrates, are due to human pressure: with the introduction of invasive flora and fauna, such as the domestic cat, the coipú or the American crayfish, which make it difficult for the otter population to survive, but especially with the increase in impacts due tourbanization action.

On the other hand, the delimitation of the Natural Park did not include some dune habitats or wetlands that are still preserved in Pals, of great faunal, geological and floristic importance, due to their rarity. They are Priority Habitats of Community Interest (HIC), threatened by urban speculation: the Ullals and the Closses Fondes, in the old Golf Serres de Pals, now abandoned and partially dried up in front of the Mas Gelabert, with a multitude of species in danger of extinction, the pine forests on continental dunes that go from Platja de Pals to Regencós and Begur - in the municipality are very well represented in Rodors and the Pineda de Pals, which the General Plan still plans to partially urbanize- the dunes of the Platja del Racó, in the municipality of Begur with colonies ofStachys maritima, and part of the Vernegar pond, where the Pals City Council plans to build the Vial Nord, que travessarà aquesta zona humida, dividint i degradant-la, amb un efecte molt negatiu sobre la fauna, el sistema hídric, i el cultiu de l’arròs.

La Pletera de l'Estartit, area included in the Montgrí Natural Park, the Medes Islands and the Baix Ter - Photo: Eva Colomina.
Descobreix com les rutes migratòries de les aus passen especialment pels aiguamolls de l’Empordà – Font: 422south.com – Veure vídeo

With strong opposition from different entities such as SOS Costa Brava, Salvem la Platja de Pals, different scientists and residents of Platja de Pals and the two groups in opposition to Pals City Council -Compromís and PSC-, the Municipal Plenum, led by the mayor Carles Pi Renart, has initially approved the modification of the General Plan for the construction of a new northern access road that plans to connect Platja de Pals with the main road C-31, which will have a serious environmental impact on the wetlands of the Basses d 'in Coll for its proximity and the Vernegar pond, with rice cultivation, which will cross the pine forests on the dunes of Rodors and a very fragile rustic site, defined by the Partial Territorial Plan of the Girona counties as a biological corridor "Conflicting axis due to connectivity”, the only wildlife crossing that connects the PEIN Muntanyes de Begur area and the Montgrí Natural Park, the Medes Islands and the Baix Ter -Partial Nature Reserve, within the Natura 2000 Network and Special Bird Protection Zone (ZEPA) .

Wetland area called les Jonquers, which is part of the old Vernegar pond, where rice is partially grown, at the entrance to Les Basses d'en Coll.

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Article escrit per Narcís Subirana Cercle Català d’Història i completat amb noves dades per l’Associació Salvem la Platja de Pals. Publicat per primer cop a la Revista del Baix Empordà nº 67. Imatge de capçalera de Anna Sanx. Imatges de la galeria de fauna i flora per odre d’aparició a l’apartat – Els aiguamolls en perill: Ramon Fortià, naturalista.mx, Isabel Puig Marin (Associació CreatiBio), Frank Vasse (CC BY 2.0), canalmarmenor.carm.es, riomoros.com, stringfixer.com, naturalista.mx, stopagroparc.cat, riomoros.com, monplaneta.cat, Zacekfoto, DigitalNatura.org.

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Creation date of the article: 15/12/2019 – Last update 1/9/2022.

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