Es Trenc this summer. | Teresa Ayuga


In February 2022, a document was delivered to the president of the Council of Mallorca, Catalina Cladera. It was a report that she herself had commissioned. 'Mallorca Strategy 2030' concerned itself with defining the Mallorca of the future, an island capable of surviving the challenges of overpopulation, climate change and economic and resource overexploitation.

Thirteen people contributed to this report. From different backgrounds, they included specialists in agriculture, oceanography, water resources and waste management. The University of the Balearic Islands president of the committee for energy transition and climate change; representatives of environmentalists GOB and Terraferida and of the Soller Sant Bartomeu Cooperative; the head of corporate social responsibility at Riu Hotels & Resorts - these were other contributors.

To date, there has been no response to the document, other than to have acknowledged its receipt. Yet this is a report with major significance. It delves into the limits of growth. It measures existing impacts and addresses ways of reducing social and ecological imbalances. It outlines a redirection for the island's productive model that seeks to guarantee - now and in the future - the availability of essential resources to sustain life and to ensure that this transformation is carried out while at the same time maintaining social and environmental justice.

The contents of the report have come to light. Among other things, it states: "Each day that passes, a natural or agrarian hectare that provides food, fuel, biodiversity, landscape, captures CO2, infiltrates water, recycles matter and provides immeasurable services is destroyed, while it demands materials (often from the other side of the world), produces waste, consumes water and land, generates new mobility needs and represents a new source of emissions."

At the end of 2021, Mallorca had 600,000 homes, which represent a potential population of 1.8 million people, to which - says the report - should be added 410,500 legal tourist places and therefore the potential for 2.2 million people. In the past 25 years, a minimum of 10,000 licences have been granted to build large houses with swimming pools.

Related news

"This expels agriculture, transforms the whole of a plot beyond the building and changes agricultural and forestry uses, creating more food dependence." Faced with this growth, a new urban and agrarian plan for the island as a whole is proposed, one which prohibits the construction of more homes on rural land, which is what happened in Minorca 20 years ago. The report argues the case for eliminating all developable and urban land that does not have complete and adequate urban services (sewage, streets and lighting) and freezing urban land that cannot be connected to mains water from an aquifer that is not is at high risk of drought or pollution.

The document examines the growth of tourist accommodation places. In the Balearics, there are at present some 625,000 tourist beds. There has been growth of 43% over the past decade, coinciding with the holiday rental boom. It is noted that this model of holiday rental was invented by hoteliers themselves more than thirty years ago in Cala Sant Vicenç in Pollensa as a solution to overbooking problems. As the islands have an official population of 1.2 million residents, there is one tourist bed for every two inhabitants.

It proposes introducing the 2x1 concept for the hotel market - removing two accommodation places for each new one - not renewing tourist licences for apartments and closing the "tens of thousands of existing illegal tourist places". One of the main conclusions is that if all current laws and regulations (municipal, island, regional, state and European) were enforced, Mallorca would not be facing the delicate situation that it is.

The coordinator of the environmental part of Mallorca Strategy 2030 is Xavier Pastor. At the end of August, he sent a letter to other contributors. It starts: "I will not reveal anything new to you by saying that the situation this summer in Mallorca is unbearable. It already was in 2019 and in many of the previous years, but this year all records have been broken. The overcrowding, overpopulation and saturation of the island are in everyone's conversations. The demographic, ecological, energy and water crisis is hitting us like never before and this is just the beginning."

Javier de Juan is the councillor for the presidency at the Council of Mallorca. He accepts that there have been delays to the final drafting of the Mallorca Strategy 2030, adding that there is "firm commitment" to its approval before the end of the current administration (in May 2023). "It is a project in which we believe and that we consider to be vital and which had been started before I joined the department. We want to know what we are facing in Mallorca 2030 and to have a roadmap for defining transformational strategic projects."

The aim is to have the final document by January. De Juan acknowledges that striking a balance "is not easy" - the environmental aspect is more protectionist, the economic one more developmental. But he stresses that "we are seeking environmental, economic and social sustainability".