Casino complex threatens birds
Destruction of habitat for birdlife is widespread across Spain, groups say.
3 January 2008
MADRID - Largely overlooked when the regional government of Aragon announced last month that it will go ahead with a Las Vegas-style casino complex in Los Monegros was the impact on the remote area's bird life, which is among the most varied and largest in western Europe.
Covering 20 square kilometres, Gran Scala will include more than 30 casinos, 70 hotels, replicas of the Pentagon, the Egyptian pyramids, and Roman temples. It will cost USD 25 billion and is expected to be ready by 2015.
Wildlife protection organisations say that Spain's bird population has been ravaged by the country's 30-year construction boom that has affected mountain habitat, wetlands, and coastline amid the proliferation of ski resorts, golf courses, and hotels-as well as illegally built homes.
The Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) says that some of the country's rarest species, from flamingos to grouse, are being killed each year by the thousands.
The Aragon regional government's environment department has refused to comment on the likely impact of Gran Scala on the area's bird population, saying only that it has informed the property developers involved of the location of protected areas. But it has not prohibited construction in said areas.
Environmentalists, who have not been consulted at any stage so far, say they are concerned at plans to transform Los Monegros.
Aragon is far from unique. SEO/Birdlife's Juan Carlos Atienza says that the organisation has reported the disappearance of rare species in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura due to the illegal construction of houses.
In coastal areas, where ducks, seagulls and flamingos struggle to survive in the face of continued construction, the national parks of Liencres in Cantabria, Escalona in Alicante, Almenara in Murcia, or Ronda in Málaga are struggling to maintain their bird life.
Continuing construction around Madrid is now threatening the country's most endangered species, the Iberian imperial eagle. Residential complexes in the Guadarrama mountains and near Ávila are occupying the traditional habitat of the eagle, along with the black vulture and the black stork.
The destruction of thousands of trees on protected land near the village of Navas del Marqués, in Ávila, to build a golf course and leisure complex hit the headlines last year, and work was temporarily halted, but is now going ahead.
Aside from human disturbance, SEO/Birdlife Spain says intensive agriculture and livestock farming, pollution and poor management of wetlands, intensive forestry, along with the spread of wind farms, are all contributing to the loss of species.
[Copyright El Pais / JAVIER RICO 2008]
Subject: Spanish news