At the time of the inscription the marine component of this mixed property was threatened by a large EU funded project aiming to reorganise and expand the port of Ibiza. At that time, and after reviewing the 1994 Environmental Impact Assessment, prepared for this project, IUCN concluded that the potential impacts on the marine component of this property could be addressed through a number of mitigation measures.
In March 2008 IUCN was contacted by representatives from the governments of Ibiza and Formentera to seek clarifications on the specific areas included within the natural component of this mixed property, as the natural values of this property were never mentioned or promoted for tourism marketing of the property. IUCN and the World Heritage Centre clarified this matter and requested the representatives from the governments of Ibiza and Formentera to contact the Ministry of Culture of Spain, focal point of the State Party to further clarify issues on this matter.
In August 2008, IUCN received information on a proposed project to further expand the port of Ibiza, which it was suggested had the potential to cause serious impacts on the marine component of the property. This information was made available by IUCN to the State Party, through the Ministry of Culture, for clarification and discussion with the government of Ibiza during a World Heritage seminar that took place in Formentera in September 2008. On 23 January 2009 the Centre transmitted to the State Party for comment information it had received on 30 December 2008 concerning the harbour structures. This was followed by a letter from the Centre to the State Party dated 27 February 2009 with additional information. Through letter dated 1 April 2009, the State Party of Spain responded to these communications and provided information on this issue that had been notified to the Ministry of Culture They provided a reply by the authorities from Ibiza, the port authorities responsible for the project, and the Declaration on the Environmental Impact (Resolution dates 17 June 2008).
From December 2008 and in 2009 there were several communications and press articles on the proposed project for expanding the port of Ibiza, noting its potential impacts on the marine component of this property. As part of this process IUCN received information from a number of sources noting that:
- In 2001, soon after the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, the Direction of Maritime Activities of the Ministry of Public Works and the Economy (Ministerio de Fomento) approved the discharge of dredging materials resulting from the Port’s construction in marine areas that were not far from the marine component of the property. This action was not considered in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared for this project in 1994, which proposed that all dredging material was to be used inland for the construction of dikes to avoid any impacts to the marine environment.
- The revised project for the expansion of the port proposes to discharge 660.000 m3 of polluted dredging materials to marine areas, which could potentially impact the integrity of the marine component of the property not only by increased sedimentation but also because the dredging materials will contain a highly invasive marine algae that could potentially affect the population of Posidonia sp. that is a key species of this natural World Heritage property.
- A number of media articles have also suggested that alternative and less damaging option was possible, but it was never considered in favour of the proposed large project. There is information that indicates a steady decrease in maritime traffic that would support the need for a more rational and smaller expansion of the port.
- There is concern regarding the conservation of the Posidonia prairies due to increased impact from land-based sources of pollution from the Port of Ibiza. This concern was noted following the proposal of re-floating the shipwreck “Don Pedro” that sank close to the boundaries of the Natural Park of Ses Salines that forms an integral part of the World Heritage property.
- According to a number of experts and reviewers the point above is aggravated by the fact that there is no management plan for the marine component of the World Heritage property to guide its conservation and management and to ensure that any proposed activities in its surroundings would not affect its values and integrity.
The State Party provided with its official report documents prepared (in late 2008) by the Port Authority of Ibiza as well as by the local government of Ibiza. In summary, the State Party report notes that the potential impacts to the marine component of the property have been addressed - thus concerns on the conservation of the values and conditions of integrity of the property are unfounded. This information has been reviewed by IUCN and the following issues were noted:
- Most of the documents made available by the State Party are mainly addressing “direct” impacts to the values and integrity of the property without any objective assessment of the indirect and cumulative impacts to the marine ecosystems. Therefore the information provided by the State Party is considered insufficient and there is a need for an independent review of the EIA document prepared for this project, in view of the revisions that have been made to the plan that was originally foreseen.
- The information provided by the State Party explains that the project for the port expansion is approved and supported by the Special Plan for Infrastructure Development of the Port of Ibiza; however according to the information received by IUCN, this plan was objected to by the College of Architects of the Balearic Islands and the court verdict was against the approval of this plan; thus there appears to be doubts whether this project is in line with the Special Plan for Infrastructure Development of the Port of Ibiza.
- In both the letters from the Heritage Department of the Government of Ibiza and from the Port Authority of the Balearic Islands the values of the Posidonia prairies are referred to as “generic” in the context of the World Heritage property, which is considered to include mainly the cultural component of this mixed property. This demonstrates that there is a lack of understanding over the nature of this site, which is inscribed as a mixed property in view of its natural and cultural values. The direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the natural values of the marine component of the property are a significant factor that need consideration.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that there is conflicting information in relation to the potential impacts of the proposed project on the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of this property and on the potential impacts on the property. Therefore a reactive monitoring mission will be required to clarify these issues.