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Two Formentera girls celebrated for waste-water reuse ideas

Foto entrega premis aqualiaEnvironment councillor Daisee Aguilera, Eduardo de Castillo, chief of Aqualia's regional branch, and Maria del Mar Yern, head of Formentera's municipal water service, gathered today in the CiF hall of ceremonies to award a waterproof camera to the finalists in a contest hosted by the water management company.

The pair of primary school pupils —Agnès Escandell Ribas of Sant Ferran de Ses Roques and Kiara Berzategui Hammer of Mestre Lluís Andreu— were chosen out of 8,500 school children across Spain and Portugal by virtue of their ideas on reusing waste water.

This year's slogan was “Mission: Purification”. For the occasion, year three and four primary students had the opportunity to embark on a sidereal journey across the marvellous world of water purification and reuse.

The premise, explained the Aqualia chief, is “to get children to understand what happens to water, from when they use it at home to its return to nature after purification, as well as the breadth of uses that exist for recycled water.” Hence the idea to enlist the youngsters to creatively imagine what their own sustainable planet would look like.

Councillor Aguilera congratulated the two prize-winners and thanked Aqualia and Formentera's schools for their involvement, calling the initiative “a fun, creative and educational way to promote responsible water use”.

Ses Salines canal cleanup

Neteja canal ses salinesDaisee Aguilera, head of the Formentera Council's Office of Environment says a recent cleanup of the ses Salines canal was aimed at “ensuring the free flow of water and preventing the loss of ornithological biodiversity”. The operations were conducted in the underground portion of the canal extending from the commercial dock of the Balearic port authority (APB), adjacent to the Formentera Mar tower, to the salterns behind carrer Gregal in la Savina, known as Salines Ferrer.

Over 13 days, a four-person crew —one foreman plus specialists in prevention, quality and environment— extricated 650 cubic metres (m3) of sewage sludge and slurry and 12m3 of solid waste from a 150-metre stretch of canal. Nearly two decades of buildup had, in Aguilera's words, made the task “very necessary”. Although such measures are not within the Council's purview, “unblocking the canal and restoring the flow of water was urgent, so we acted”. The canal serves to funnel rainwater to the sea and prevent its entering estany Pudent and nearby salt ponds.

Aguilera hopes such efforts will help encourage other branches of public administration to adopt conservation measures as well. The secretary described Formentera's salterns as emblematic.

Operations included:
-Clearing vegetation from uncovered portion of canal to allow for access
-Ventilating manholes and repositories
-Daily oxygen-level checks
-Equipping the underground gallery with lighting
-Sealing off portions of the canal to prevent leaks into groundwater
-Draining tanker truck of water and sludge
-Manual removal of solid waste
-Pressure washing to remove solidified slurry, sand and gravel
-Vacuuming loosened material with tanker truck
-Breaking up and removal of blocked passages to restore flow of water

Posidonia Forum

Taula redona mmaa sppToday saw the celebration of Posidonia Forum, part of Save Posidonia Project, a festival which takes place October 12-15 on Formentera. Opening words were spoken by the Formentera Council's vice-president, Susana Labrador, who reminded crowds that the festival was put on by the administration in support of a broader effort, Year of Sustainable Tourism.

Labrador called the gathering “a deep-dive into posidonia” and a look at “the threats posed to it and challenges facing conservation,” all part of an effort to make tourism and environmental conservation compatible. Pilar Costa, secretary of the president's office of the Govern balear, also gave welcoming words, thanking the Formentera Council for carrying the project forward and highlighting the Palma administration's own work to bring together tourism and environmentally responsible policies, such as the “sustainable tourism tax” (Impost de Turisme Sostenible).

Talks and round-tables
All day long experts in the field gave conferences on tourism and the environment. Of five morning events, the first, on innovation and technology, was conducted via video with a representative of the World Tourism Organisation. Next came talks by Pierre-Yves Cousteau and biologist Manu San Félix, the former describing a project dubbed Cousteau Divers on Formentera and the latter sharing with audiences his own personal trajectory in “From Formentera to National Geographic”. Greenpeace's Elvira Giménez led a discussion on plastics in world oceans, now and in the future, and Clara Calatayud closed the morning series with a talk about “The shark Odissey” subtitled “Ecotourism and the search for conservation”.

Afterwards, a round-table discussion on tourism had the participation of Ms Calatayud, Xàbia mayor José Chulvi, Cabildo del Hierro's vice-president Juan Pedro Sánchez, Govern balear ministry of tourism spokesman Pere Muñoz, president of Formentera's league of hotels, Vicent Tur, and the island's tourism minister, Alejandra Ferrer. Panelists discussed the importance of environmental safeguards when developing so-called “ecotourist” products.

The programme resumed at 3.00pm with WWF's Oscar Esparza, who unpacked some of the efforts afoot in Spain to protect marine life. Raquel Vaquer-Sunyer, of IMEDEA, tried to get at the question of what we know about posidonia today, and GEN-GOB's Francisco Sobrado gave a talk framing the sea as “a shared responsibility”. Guillem Roca spoke to audiences about “observers of the seas” while Irene Díez gave a presentation called “Upcycling the Oceans” in which the Ecoalf representative talked about the promise of an initiative of the circular economy making rubbish fashionable.

Afterwards came a round-table discussion on the environment that included former Oceana president Xavier Pastor, Raul José Alvarez of the Ghostfishing project, GEN-GOB's Marià Marí, Elvira García, of the directorate general of coasts and the sea, Marta Castelló, chief of the Eivissa-Formentera Ses Salines nature preserve and environment secretary Daisee Aguilera. The panel of experts spoke in unison about the need for reverse growth in protecting the environment and why education and outreach will be key to tackling challenges on the horizon.

Anchorage on Formentera's seaboard
For her part, CiF environment secretary Daisee Aguilera used forum to unveil an initiative focussed on anchoring boats and the ability of Formentera's seaboard to accommodate them.

According to Aguilera, the proposal currently awaiting review by the Govern balear is based first on physically measurable criteria—“quantification of sand, current posidonia mapping and, in contested areas, expanded swimming zones that stretch 200 metres outward from the coast”—and second on environmental factors (placing anchors or buoys on posidonia is expressly prohibited, for instance). Aguilera described the creation of “a 10-metre buffer zone between posidonia meadows and the shore ensure the plant is safe from chains and anchors as they are dragged about”.

The Council proposes is a variable system of controls whereby anchorage is permitted in offshore areas with vast stretches of open sand, such as Cala Saona, but subject to measures such as the so-called “eco-buoys” in areas closer to posidonia meadows, like the beaches at Illetes. The number of ships that can drop anchor will depend on three factors (size, weather conditions and wind flow) and will be administered through an online system of pay reservations. Visitors to the website will also be able to consult an up-to-the-minute feed with the number of ships allowed to drop anchor.

Boats will be required to register across an online platform that enables checks that payment and registration has occurred. Secretary Aguilera launched a call for “a simpler, easier system of fines based on the size of offending ships” and looked ahead to the inclusion of posidonia meadows in nautical maps”.

Lastly, Aguilera stressed that any system of checks would need to include a recycling and waste collection programme for watercraft. The system of pay would be based on the weight and associated management costs of the rubbish collected.

Closing ceremony
The forum's closing ceremony was led by Govern vice-president and tourism secretary Biel Barceló, who highlighted his office's ardent support for the Save Posidonia Project, including presentations in Germany, France and Italy and press trips with German and Spanish journalists to marshal awareness of the project and how funding will be used.

According to Barceló, it is a project that “fits perfectly with our strategy on sustainable tourism development, the point of which is to make tourism compatible with the environment and quality of life for residents of the areas”. In addition, he stressed the significance of the project given the designation of 2017 as International Year for Sustainable Tourism. It bears remembering that the Save Posidonia Project also received recognition from the Govern as the year's best sustainable tourism initiative.

Alejandra Ferrer, Formentera's vice-president and tourism secretary, gave closing comments as well. In it, she highlighted some of the challenges ahead, such as regulating anchorage, effluent runoff, improperly disposed of plastics and waste management.

Said the secretary: “Sustainability is no longer an option; it is an imperative. We must continue working to ensure Formentera remains one of the best options for travellers, as a holiday destination, and for our children, as a home”. To get there, Ferrer called on public institutions, the private sector and the public to protect local ecosystems and posidonia. “The Mediterranean's very biodiversity depends on it,” she said.

Also noteworthy were three visual art shows by Elena Urizar that took place during the day. For all the details, visit the festival's website at www.saveposidoniaproject.org. The programme continues through Sunday.

Save Posidonia Project Festival rolls into town

Foto spp presentacioToday marked the start of Save Posidonia Project Festival, four days and more than one hundred activities encompassing sports, culture, education and the environment.

Most of the events will take shape in the island's nerve centre, Sant Francesc, between plaça de la Constitució, avinguda Porto Salé and jardí de Ses Eres, where artists and artisans of the island have set up stands to showcase their own posidonia-inspired work.

Attendees will be treated to a fashion show from some of the island's own designers. Among them are Gemma Mengual and Cristina Piaget, two particularly special models who will crown the Friday event with their undersea runway experience.

Visitors of an audiovisual space in the plaza will see assorted projections on the environment, starting with the Festival's opening event, a screening of the Formentera-shot Cousteau Divers followed by a brief conversation with the filmmaker, Pierre-Yves Cousteau, about why posidonia's preservation is critical.

Workshops for kids
It wouldn't be a festival without youth education. Formentera pupils built their own display of the undersea world and students from Mallorca produced a comic strip; both are on view. Plus, there will be activities that show kids fun ways to learn about posidonia.

This morning, fifty or so scientists in the Blue Carbon initiative got a chance to see Formentera's marine ecosystem up close. With half of the group on oxygen bottles and the other half in snorkelling gear, participants surveyed the waters near the beaches of Es Pujols. The scientists are running a programme about blue carbon.

Tomorrow, the local cinema (Sala de Cultura) will host the Posidonia Forum, where associations, agencies and key players in tourism and ecology will come together for talks and round-table discussions about the outlook for Formentera's tourism and environment moving forward.

Formentera Council vice-president Susana Labrador and Govern presidential cabinet secretary Pilar Costa will speak to audiences at the Forum's 10.00am inaugural ceremony. The island's environment secretary, Daisee Aguilera, will lead a presentation on the Formentera Coast Anchorage Project (Projecte de Fondejos del Litoral de Formentera). At 6.00pm, Govern balear vice-president and tourism secretary Biel Barceló, together with his opposite number on the island, Alejandra Ferrer, will conclude the evening.

For all the information on Save Posidonia Project Festival, visit www.saveposidoniaproject.org.

Puleva adopts 11K square metres of posidonia

PulevaThis afternoon at Molí de Sal, the director of Puleva, Ignacio Elola, handed over to the administration's environment secretary, Daisee Aguilera, and tourism advisory chief, Carlos Bernús, a cheque for €11,000 to adopt 11,000 square metres (m2) of posidonia oceanica, making Puleva the Save Posidonia Project's largest private donator to date.

Secretary Aguilera thanked the company for its contribution, which she said would “drive projects that safeguard Formentera's uniquely important underwater plant”. Posidonia, she explained, is crucial because it acts as a buffer for local beaches and landscapes. “At the end of the day, it's what makes our island into the paradise it is”.

For his part, the director of the Lactalis Puleva group said that the company is "committed so much more than food” and pledged sensitivity to those ecosystems in place where the Puleva company treads.

This year, Puleva held its annual convention on Eivissa and Formentera, bringing some 140 workers to the islands. Today, the company's employees got a close-up look at Formentera's undersea riches on a boat ride with Secretary Aguilera through Ses Salines nature preserve.

Eighty-four thousand square metres sponsored so far
More than 84,000m2 have already been adopted through private and business donations. Money collected to November 1 will go to fund projects aimed at protecting posidonia. Donations are still being accepted—one euro per square metre—at https://www.saveposidoniaproject.org.

Conditions for project proposals can be found on three websites: the Balearic Islands employment office (BOIB), the Formentera Council and the Save Posidonia Project. Proposals will be accepted over two months starting November 1, when donations have closed.

The Save Posidonia Project Festival is set to begin next week, October 12-15.

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