Old boat sheds at the Port des Canonge. | L. OLMO

Territory. It’s one of those words which in translation for particular purposes doesn’t somehow sound right. In Mallorca, you often encounter the use of territory and a sense by which it is given an almost abstract quality. At the same time, however, it is very real, as you and I are sitting, standing, walking, running, driving, cycling and climbing on it. It’s the land in other words - or word. The reality of this land is that political positions are created for it. The Council of Mallorca has a territory councillor. Maria Antònia Garcías is her name. Barely a square millimetre of Mallorca’s 3,640 square kilometres escapes her attention, albeit that the 208.6 square kilometres that constitute Palma tend to be outside her domain; Palma has its own people for its territory, even if the town hall doesn’t refer to them in such a way.

This territory blends into landscape, another word regularly used but which can also sound a bit odd. Yet it is far from odd. The landscape of Mallorca is the soul of Mallorca, or a soul at any rate - that landscape that hasn’t been irretrievably altered forever. Landscape equates to territory. Maria has presided over Landscape Weeks; this when she hasn’t been drafting a new territorial plan for Mallorca - how to use the land, or not when it comes to building on it. Maria is thus arguably the most powerful of all Council councillors. Land and landscape, she is all seeing and all doing in a regulatory manner.
A good-sized chunk of this territory (and landscape) is taken up by the Tramuntana mountain range. A World Heritage Site since 2011, this status hasn’t necessarily sat well with island administrators. They’ve tried to administer but they haven’t always done so effectively. As a result, there have been times when it has looked as if Unesco might un-declare the mountains a heritage site.

Does anyone recall the spat about who was meant to collect the rubbish in Sa Calobra? The small mountains of waste knocking around in summer in the general vicinity of the Torrent el Pareis drew criticisms from the Icomos council for monuments and sites, the body that evaluates heritage site candidates and then keeps an eye on the successful applicants. Icomos can issue stern warnings if there are blots on the landscape, and so it has in the Tramuntana.

Ensuring effective waste management would, you might think, form part of a law for the Tramuntana. There again, why should it? Mountains’ legislation is unnecessary when there are institutions like town halls and the Council of Mallorca that are supposed to be capable of managing this without getting into highly public arguments. And sure enough, there doesn’t seem to be anything about rubbish in the law for the Tramuntana, one that is due to be approved some time next month.

Unesco doesn’t insist on laws, but they are clearly a byproduct of heritage sites. Unesco lists all manner of laws in different countries and territories. Mallorca’s territory doesn’t therefore escape this legislative desire, which is reasonable only perhaps because of what has been unremarkable management since the 2011 declaration was made.

But if not rubbish, then what is this law concerned with? There’s a whole load of stuff about agriculture, dry-stone use, redevelopment of existing buildings and construction of new ones. It covers noise and light pollution and there will be swingeing fines for graffiti.

There’s nothing here to disagree with, but why is this law even necessary? Are there not sufficient regulatory means for all of this? Is it a case of having a heritage site and so also having to create a law for it? Town halls and groups such as Tramuntana XXI have been expressing their doubts. These are partly due to what is seen as excessive bureaucracy. Maria says that there isn’t an excess, as the “entities that are to be created are to be more operational”. Entities? How many do you need?

Tramuntana XXI, an association that is absolutely committed to the proper management of the mountains, the farmers business association Asaja and some town halls (especially those run by the Partido Popular) have complained that their suggestions haven’t been taken due account of, while new issues seem to keep cropping up. One of these has to with old boat sheds in the likes of Valldemossa and Port des Canonge. There is a determination to preserve them, but the Costas Authority keeps on challenging their existence, which is a nonsense in terms of historical heritage.

Fundamentally though, there is the issue of what this Tramuntana territory and landscape does to make money. A recent report by the Tramuntana Consortium, which is supposed to oversee the heritage site management, basically concluded that a tourism monoculture has emerged through a growth in hotels and hospitality. An emphasis on agriculture might be designed to address a decline in farming activity, but can it really turn the clock back? Asaja, for one, believes that the law will hinder agriculture. Not Maria, for whom new regulations will protect elements of the agricultural landscape that need to be preserved. New regulations, critics say, that will be clouded by bureaucracy.