Following information and press articles on a proposed project for expanding the port of Ibiza and potential impacts on the marine component of the World Heritage property, the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) requested a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture (Decision 33 COM 7B.41). Following the invitation by the State Party of Spain the mission took place from 3 to 6 November 2009 to review the port expansion project, evaluate its Environmental Impact Assessment, and assess the state of conservation of the property, its conditions of integrity and authenticity.
The mission reviewed the extensive information provided and held numerous meetings with stakeholders. It concluded that the current overall state of conservation is satisfactory. However, the mission made a number of observations and recommendations to better manage potential threats to the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity of this cultural and natural serial World Heritage property. Many issues noted in the detailed mission report available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM have the potential to have negative effects on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and require urgent and immediate attention by the Spanish authorities. These are specifically:
a) Management including visitor management and site presentation
The mission recommended that the roles and responsibilities of the different entities responsible for the planning, protection and management of the property, and especially its natural components, be clarified in relation to the overall integrated management of the property and its buffer zone as a whole, and that a shared vision and clear programme of joint actions be established and implemented.
The mission recommended that the authorities complete the project for the Visitor Centre at San Francisco Eremita as soon as possible. Concerning the area of Ses Feixes, the mission encouraged the authorities to improve the site’s presentation with panels and explanations on the connection between the natural and cultural parts of the property.
b) Harbour development and reorganization
The mission reviewed in detail the proposed development of the port and recognised the need for a reorganization considering international and EU safety requirements, the integrity of the landscape setting, reduction of traffic impacts and visual impacts on the Old City. The mission also noted that the waters of the port area are outside of the property and its buffer zone, whereas the Botafoc area, where major dredging and construction would occur is included in the buffer zone of the cultural component of the property.
The mission was concerned about a number of specific issues including potential direct and indirect impacts on the natural portion of the World Heritage property through: i) effects of the dredging and then the immersion of the dredged materials into the so-called “zona de vertido”; ii) potential loss of archaeological evidence from the Botafoc area; iii) the size of the platform and justification for this size; iv) the lack of conceptual development of the harbour with the overall urban and regional development and traffic concepts for Ibiza and Formentera despite the existence of a territorial plan.
The mission recommended that the proposed port development be carefully reviewed and reconsidered, taking into account these concerns, and in particular to ensure no negative direct or indirect impacts on the natural and cultural aspects of the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property, and in particular to the key species associated with the Posidonia meadows. Furthermore, all port activities should ensure that any any potential visual impacts of constructions in the port area (height of buildings, form and materials) be reviewed in order to prevent any negative visual impacts on the city and the wetlands in the buffer zone and vicinity of the site.
The mission also recommended to:
- carefully assess all potential archaeological finds which could be relevant for the understanding of the site using the latest techniques including testing and to reduce the amount of dredged materials with a possible reduction of the platform, and the re-use of these materials within the platform, to investigate all technical processes to avoid the dispersion of the mud not only inside the port (geotextile barrier) but during the immersion including ensuring no wind and no-current conditions, no immersion in surface, use of pipelines for a deposition at depth (at least under the thermo cline and preferably as deep as possible) in order to reduce the amount of deposition on the deep-bottom;
- to verify and control regularly the quality of the dredged material before re-immersion, and halting deposition in case of punctual contamination by trace-metals or permanent organic pollutants;
- to control during all building phases the distribution of the dredged material in the vicinity of the “zona di vertido” and on the boarders of the natural site with sediments traps; to implement an adapted monitoring system for the natural resources (species and habitats), with a particular focus on the stability of the lower limits of the Posidonia meadows that could be impacted, and that any works be carried out with extreme caution taking into account the concerns expressed above and to avoid impacts on the natural values and the key species as Posidonia;
Given the potential negative impacts of the proposed new port development on the underwater archaeological resources (which could be related to the cultural values of the property), and potentially on the eco-system of the harbour, and wider area, the mission urged the Spanish authorities to adopt an alternative approach which would reduce these impacts to acceptable levels.
The mission also reviewed the boundaries and buffer zones of the site and made detailed recommendations which may be taken into consideration by the Spanish authorities in a potential future extension to the property to provide for a more effective control of further development that could impact the property.
The Spanish authorities provided a state of conservation report on 1 February 2010 highlighting that the project is outside of the World Heritage property and that it does not impact on the city of Ibiza and “...could hardly affect the Posidonia meadows of Ses Salines Natural Park given that the latter is situated over 5 miles away.” The report further notes that the silt dumping point within the Natural Park, for which the Port authorities plans to take important measures to control the invasive algae which might be withdrawn from the area during dredging operations, is also outside the property’s boundaries. They note in response to the world Heritage Committee’s Decision 33 COM 7B.41, point 6, that the complete Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was handed to the mission in November 2009 and that the port reorganization project has been carried out in full compliance with regulations in force. They also underline specific activities for the heritage assets of the Walled City (Direct Walls Plan of 2003), Puig des Molins (excavations), Sa Caleta (land acquisition) and Posidonia meadows of ses Salines (enhanced protection status). They conclude that the “...improvement of the Port of Ibiza will not imply a deterioration of the state of conservation of any of the four protected assets.”
The full mission report was submitted to the Spanish authorities for comments on 3 February 2010. In response to the report the State Party transmitted a response prepared by the Baleares Port Authority on 16 March 2010 including the following specific information on the harbour development and reorganization:
They emphasize the necessity for the reorganization because of insufficient infrastructure of the port. They highlight these specific issues:
- the esplanade of the future Terminal has been designed to a minimum and does not include storage areas, only transit zones; the project has been developed according to regulations in force and full EIS carried out including cultural aspects; respectful dredging techniques will be used and additional surveys may be carried out in case required by archaeologists; concerning invasive species (Caulerpa racemosa) they note that none have been found so far and in case they occur they would be eliminated;
- the dredging volumes have been adjusted as constructions if now by a deep foundation of pontoons by piles instead of a gravity concrete caisson;
- a system for monitoring the water quality during disposal has been established to ensure risk management at times required; the disposal place had already been used previously; They note that the dredged material is uncontaminated they also indicate that National Contingency Plan for Accidental Marine Pollution approved by the Ministry of Development on 23 February 2001 and the Special Contingency Plan for the Accidental Contamination of Sea Water of the Balearic Islands of 2 December 2008; and
- they conclude that all issues indicated by the mission were carefully considered and that therefore the work would commence on 1 May 2010.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies welcome the detailed reply provided by the Balearic Port Authorities and specifically that the key concerns of the mission have been carefully studied. However they express their concern that the State Party has not commented on the management, boundaries and presentation of the World Heritage site. They also note with regret that, according to press reports, work on the port expansion is due to commence on 1 May 2010 without any amendments to plans to mitigate its adverse impacts on the property.
Additional information of a total of 124 pages was provided with a cover letter dated 12 April 2010 from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and received on 19 April 2010 by the World Heritage Centre. The information concerning answers and comments on the mission report from the City of Ibiza, the Port Authorities and the Ministry for the Environment is currently under review with the Advisory Bodies.