Monday, September 21, 2015

Medio Ambiente Fails Again: Cabo de Gata

The Cabo de Gata is a beautiful and untouched area outside the city of Almería. You may have to pass through some plastic farms to get there, but once in the tiny villages of Pozo de los Frailes or San José, the charm kicks in with a vengeance. Small restaurants and bijou hotels, a port in San José, a mixture of fishermen, retired Spaniards and odd-looking hippies in old vee dubs and on bicycles. The surrounding hills are free from any intensive farming and, apart from the odd decorative windmill, are simply green rolling hills. The whole area is carefully protected by the agency of the Medio Ambiente.
Just through San José, there is a untarred road that leads to the fine and untouched beaches of Los Genoveses and Monsul, the former chosen as the top beach of Spain 2015 by Antena3 (here).
Unfortunately for the region (part of the larger Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata - Nijar), one of the many things the environmentalists fail to do is look after the chumbo cactus, the nopal, the prickly pear. They say that it is an invasive plant (ratified by Royal Decree Nov 2011) and, as such, it is not within their remit to care for its protection. The picture here is a glimpse of a large plantation of the cactus, taken just behind the prizewinning Playa de los Genoveses. The bug in question is the tiny cochineal fly, which lifts off in its millions at night, to uncomfortable effect. The infection, the sticky white stuff, is carried by birds. It is slowly wending its way westwards towards Granada and Málaga.  The plants do not recover although the roots seem to be OK: fresh shoots are soon consumed by the pest.
The Medio Ambiente also has a large park just outside Almería City, 14 hectares of land with an exhaustive collection of local trees, shrubs and plants, with walkways and ponds, called El Boticario. The park was built with European funds and the Medio Ambiente has been trying to offload it to the diputación (County Council), or the Town Hall of Almería, ever since completion in 2005. There are no takers.
The result, the park is dying. The cactus (hello, I thought they were 'invasive') are infected, as are a number of other plants. Nothing appears to have been watered or pruned. The smaller flora has long since dried up and died. (A return visit to the Boticario: Spanish Shilling, June this year, here).
There is a push to change the law regarding the status of the prickly pear, whose infection has damaged much of the hills and plains of Murcia and Almería, and we can only hope that it proves successful. Soon. 

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