The long-term prosperity of Ibiza and Formentera depends on the preservation of our land and sea and natural resources such as water. Natural resources are key assets for our well-being, but they are also crucial for a sustainable and prosperous economy.
For a thriving natural environment and long-term economic prosperity, we need to address issues impacting the islands and the well-being of its residents. These include tourism, land use, water, waste, energy, biodiversity and transport.
To gain a better understanding of these issues, we funded and coordinated a major study on the social and environmental carrying capacity of Ibiza. This study produced a set of sustainability indicators to better inform local decision-making on the future development of Ibiza.
Tourism and human pressure
Ibiza and Formentera’s exceptional beauty, nightlife, Mediterranean climate and pristine sea have made the islands one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. In 2016, the number of visitors to the islands reached almost 4 million. This has placed an enormous pressure on our land, water and ecosystems.
With a tourist to resident rate of 25/1 – the second-highest in the world – tourism has also created social challenges. There is an ever-growing need for larger infrastructure, such as roads, desalination plants and sewage treatment facilities, which must be provided and paid for by the local community. Rental prices have also increased. Households now spend an average of 82% of their income on housing.
Between 1990 and 2012, an estimated 31.14 km2 of natural areas and farmland was lost to urban development and the urbanisation of coastal areas increased by 60.8%. This has impacted some of the islands’ most valuable landscapes and ecosystems.
At the same time, 73.7 km2 of land changed from agricultural use to forest cover. This has led to a loss of rural landscapes and the disappearance of local plant varieties, animal breeds and traditional knowledge. The islands’ food supply is now largely dependent on imports, and the invasion of pine trees poses a significant risk of forest fires.
To address these issues, the IPF supports projects to re-plant traditional crops such as almonds, promote the consumption of locally-grown food, and encourage new farmers to the land.
Escalating water demand has led to depleted and polluted aquifers and a growing dependency on desalination plants. A study the IPF coordinated in 2015 found that of Ibiza’s 16 underground aquifers, 8 were depleted and 12 were contaminated with seawater. Aquifers are contaminated when overused and groundwater levels drop, causing salt water to intrude.
Water supply from desalination plants accounts for 41% of Ibiza’s urban consumption. But desalination plants can negatively impact the marine ecosystem with salt water by-products and contribute to our soaring energy demand.
Most visitors to Ibiza and Formentera are unaware of the water shortage on the islands. By consciously thinking about our water consumption, we can help save our islands’ water resource.
Waste is a major environmental challenge in island economies. In Ibiza, waste generation is 14% more than in Spain and the rest of Europe, at 540 kg per person per year.
Large amounts of rubbish is dumped in the Ca na Putxa disposal site, the only waste facility operating on the islands. This site is rapidly filling up. To comply with EU legislation, 50% of waste must be recycled by 2020.
By recycling, saying “no” to single-use plastics and unnecessary packaging we can all help reduce the amount of waste on our islands.
Energy use is an important environmental challenge but also a significant financial burden on economies like Ibiza and Formentera that rely almost exclusively on imported fuel to supply energy. As islands, we are also vulnerable to security of supply issues and exposed to higher prices.
Between 2000 and 2016, total energy use increased by 51.4%. And despite our considerable solar potential, in 2016 only 0.34% of Ibiza’s energy supply came from renewable sources. Solar energy is a key element in the islands’ transition to a carbon-free energy mix. This transition can also make a positive contribution to the local economy.
To encourage more households and businesses to install solar energy, the IPF funded and coordinated a study on the opportunities to develop photovoltaic (PV) solar energy in Ibiza. This report showed under existing regulations and with government subsidies, solar energy is a profitable investment where returns can be realised within 6 to 11 years.
Ibiza and Formentera harbour a remarkable biodiversity. Endemic plant and animal species are well preserved and the islands shelter important breeding colonies for the Balearic shearwater, Europe’s most threatened seabird. In our waters, Posidonia meadows support a diversity of marine life.
A significant portion of Ibiza and Formentera is protected (35% and 43% respectively). But between 2000 and 2016, areas designated as Natural Reserves and Parks were reduced. And protection under land-planning regulations has swayed from strict protection to permissive tolerance of development.
Recent measures to preserve marine biodiversity are encouraging. In 2014 nine marine sites were included in the EU Natura 2000 network, and a new marine reserve was proposed in 2015. However, providing these areas with sufficient personnel and means to safeguard marine habitats and biodiversity remains a challenge.
A strong reliance on private vehicles has led to growing congestion on our main roads. Ibiza now has 963.8 vehicles per 1000 people – double the vehicle per person rate than the rest of Spain. Private vehicles are now the main source of CO2 emissions in Ibiza, accounting for 31% of the total.
Our reliance on cars can have significant environmental impacts due to greenhouse gas emissions and the need for increasingly-larger road infrastructure. There are also economic impacts associated with costly, imported fuels and road congestion. A reliance on private cars also impacts the provision of public transport, walking and cycle routes.
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