The serious environmental crisis at the Mar Menor saltwater lagoon in Murcia, has worsened over the last 10 days with the appearance of nearly five tons of dead fish, which were asphyxiated due to a lack of oxygen. A similar phenomenon was seen in 2019, with thousands of fish washing up after being asphyxiated by the effects of intensive farming nearby. The central government – a coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and leftist Unidas Podemos – has blamed the regional administration for the situation, claiming that “years of inaction and permissiveness of actions that damage the environment” are to blame. The Popular Party (PP), meanwhile, which is in power in Murcia, is claiming that the region does not have the powers needed to solve the crisis and is calling on the central government to act.
Speaking after the weekly Cabinet meeting, government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez claimed that the “Spanish government is fully committed to seeking solutions to what is happening in the Mar Menor.” But, she added, the current situation “is not something that takes place in a day or a weekend,” but is, she claimed, the result of “years of neglect” of the powers of the Murcia regional government, which is currently led by Fernando López Miras of the PP. The conservative group has been in power in the region since 1995.
“What needs to happen is for each [government] to exercise its powers,” the government spokesperson continued on Tuesday. “The government is exercising its powers and the Murcia government needs to as well. This is a major problem.” Rodríguez pointed to 8,000 hectares of land having been detected that are using illegal irrigation systems, excessive use of nitrates and the resulting run-off of contaminated waters.
The issue, she continued, is of concern for reasons including the environment, the local economy, the reputation of the agricultural products that Spain exports and tourism in the area. She added that the central government is “fully committed” to finding solutions to the environmental crisis, but that it has done “all that it can.”
Meanwhile, the president of the main opposition Popular Party, Pablo Casado, called on the parties and administrations to stop fighting over the situation at the Mar Menor and to address the problem. “If there is a solution, it needs to be found now,” he said. He referred to previous statements made by Murcian premier López Miras, who has called on the central government to deal with the situation given that, he argues, the regional administration lacks the powers to do so.