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Future of the Natural Park

¿What can you do?

Take part in campaign of public objections by Amigos del Parque

More information here.


Traduction française: Le futur du Parc Naturel
Deutsche Übersetzung: Die Zukunft des Naturparks
Artículo original: El futuro del Parque Natural

In order that everybody can participate

Now is an crucial time for the future of our natural surroundings. Shortly, the regulations for the protection and development of the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park will be revised, and these regulations are vitally important for the conservation of such a fragile ecosystem.

Foto: Irrigated land near El Cortijo de El Fraile, © Amigos del Parque

PORN: Natural Resources Plan.
( PORN: Plan de Ordenación de los Recursos Naturales)
This is implemented by the Junta de Andalucía (the Andalusian Government) by means of a Decree and it is the most important of all the regulations. It is a top-level legal instrument, to which all other regulations affecting the park, including the land-use regulations, are subordinate. The new zoning given in the PORN divides the park into zones: A, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C1, C2 and C3, with the degree of protection conferred by these categories ranging from high to low. Maximum protection is afforded to zone A and minimum to C2, excluding C3 areas. The Natural Resources Plan is effective for an indefinite period, and this is why it is so important that the regulations are correct.

PRUG: Park Use and Management Plan.
( PRUG: Plan Rector de Uso y Gestión del Parque)
This document completes the PORN. According to the forecasts made in the PORN and within the limits established by that document, the PRUG is the document that specifies the various economic activities that can be undertaken in the Park. On this plan rides the issue of whether tourism or agricultural development is opted for; the PRUG also lays down the criteria for construction, how and when ruins can be renovated, what infrastructure works can go ahead, etc.

The PDS: Plan for Sustainable Development of the Park.
( PDS: Plan de Desarrollo Sostenible del Parque)
This document determines the area of economic influence of the Park. Thus, it does not coincide with the territory that defines the Park, but extends to land surrounding it. This plan has already been approved and is pending publication in the BOJA (Official Bulletin of the Government of Andalusia). The PDS is purely a declaration of intent, since it does not consider specific projects, timescales for completion, or budgets.

The text of the PORN and PRUG plans was submitted to the Junta Rectora de Parque (the Park’s Governing Council), so that its members could make appropriate “observations”. Ecologistas en Acción (“Environmentalists in Action”), GEM (“Mediterranean Environmentalist Group”) and Amigos del Parque (“Friends of the Park”) prepared a joint document of representations. The definitive Plan is being compiled by the Junta de Andalucía with the revisions that they consider appropriate, and will be published in the BOJA. From that date a period for public consultation opens, during which any citizen or association can make their representation.


PORN: plan for zonation of land uses

The zonation of land uses in the existing and the new PORN has changed, in terms of the names of the various categories and the regulations accorded to each. For this reason, we have described the various zones below, summarizing the most important clauses. The notes in italic summarize our objections and describe the problems that we consider need to be corrected in the definitive PORN.

All zones B and C include the following open clause regarding the permitted uses: "Any other action that the corresponding authorization process deems compatible." This clause must be removed, since it would create permanent conflict and so weaken the level of protection.

Reserve Zones (A)
Landward Reserves (A1)
Classification in this zone confers maximum protection. In spite of this, exploitation of these zones for livestock is permitted. This must be prohibited in these areas of maximal protection to ensure their conservation. Underground linear infrastructures are also permitted, leaving the door open for the new oil pipeline that would enter Spain via Cabo de Gata.
Examples of Zone A1: Los Frailes, La Polacra,...
Marine Reserves (A2)
Zone A2 affords maximal protection in the marine environment. Amongst other things, any action that could cause substantial modification to the ecosystems is prohibited, both in the marine and intertidal zones.
Examples of Zone A2: off La Polacra, off the lighthouse at Cabo de Gata,...
Zones of Special Regulation (B)
Areas of Habitat or Species Management (B1)
Traditional arable and livestock agriculture are permitted, which respect fallow cycles and existing bushes and shrubs. We disagree on this point since this rule favours ploughing of fields for subsequent speculative development.
Again, underground linear infrastructures are permitted, along the margins of existing highways. In general, we disagree with this treatment of infrastructures, since it favours the economic aspects and does not foster clean and alternative energy sources.
Examples of Zone B1: The Saltpans at Cabo de Gata,...
Protected Wild Areas (B2)
Existing primary activities that do not imply any transformation of the environment: livestock, hunting and forestry activities. Seasonal limits will be imposed on livestock herding and hunting activities where conservation criteria demand it. If we bear in mind that these wild areas are areas for conservation and regeneration of ecosystems, it seems illogical that these activities are deemed generally compatible. Whilst in some zones they may be compatible, they should be subject to very strict limitations.
Examples of Zone B2: Campo de Cala Enmedio and Cala de Plomo,...
Seminatural Areas with Agricultural Resources (B3)
Compatible activities in these zones include existing primary activities. Here it should be stated explicitly that abandoned cultivated lands must be B2, and that only land currently or very recently cultivated (no more than 3 years ago) can be included in this category. Hunting is alos a compatible use. We judge that hunting must be prohibited throughout the Park. Although thei economic contribution may be minimal, there are twenty-five hunting preserves in the Park. Poor management can cause deaths of wild and domestic animalsthrough the use of poison.
Examples of Zone B3: Cortijo del Paraiso,...
Protected Riverbed and Coastal Areas (B4)
This zone corresponds to beaches and ramblas. The open clause mencioned at the beginning of this article appears here and so can cause conflicts of interpretation.
Example of Zone B4: Rambla de El Playazo.
Marine Areas with Primary Exploitation and Recreation Areas (B5)
Anchoring of boats is permitted in the places delimited for that purpose. The PRUG allows for an increase in the number of permanent moorings; we believe that any increase needs to be minimized and that anchoring points are grouped, so as to avoid cases like the beach at Agua Amarga during the summer.
Examples of Zone B5: the entire coast except that classified as Marine Reserve.
Zones of Common Regulation (C)
Agricultural Zones (C1)
Permitted activities include agricultural exploitation and transformation of non-irrigated to irrigated land. We disagree with this clause since crops grown under irrigation require very large quantities of water (yet we live in a semidesert area). In addition, the use of toxic, phytosanitary products, where crops are not organically grown, produces significant negative impacts on the ecosystems, which can be as important as those produced by greenhouse cultivation. The Plan must guarantee that the Park is not converted into an extensive area of irrigated land. Traditional crops that are compatible with the climate and soils of the area should be favoured.
Examples of Zone C1: Cortijo del Fraile, Valle de Rodalquilar, Valle de Escullos,...
Zones of Intensive Agriculture (C2) GREENHOUSES
We judge greenhouse cultivation to be a method of cultivation, which from an ecological viewpoint, is totally incompatible with the Natural Park. Not only should they be withdrawn from the protected spaces, but there should also be a buffer zone that would mean that the Park is not contaminated by toxic residues, which this type of intensive agriculture tends to produce.
Examples of Zone C2: Campo de Cala Enmedio, Cala de Plomo...
Pre-existing Groups of Habitations (C3)
In these groups of habitations restoration of buildings is considered a compatible activity, as well as the construction of additional storeys for residential use or for tourism. This will mean an expansion of isolated hamlets which, legally speaking, would be on a par with the urban centres. Since the PORN does not place any specification or limitations on urban areas, these small hamlets, like the urban centres,, the town planning regulations will be interpreted by the corresponding town council.
Examples of Zone C3: Las Casillas, las Presillas, La Joya...

Amigos del Parque (“Friends of the Park”), Ecologistas en Acción (“Environmentalists in Action”) and GEM (“Mediterranean Environmentalist Group”) and have submitted an initial series of representations to the Junta Rectora (Governing Council) of the Park to be taken into account in the compilation of the definitive Plan that will be published by the Junta de Andalucía in the BOJA. A period of 30 days to submit formal representations opens from the date that the Plan appears in the BOJA.

Summary of main objections to the PORN


Reduction in the size of the area that is protected. All the urban areas, in addition to being considerably enlarged (some are tripled in size) are excluded from the PORN. Consequently, they are excluded from the Natural Park, which means that the Park appears full of “black holes” (the urban areas) where there is no regulation on the part of the PORN with respect to building limits or planning (elevation, type of construction, volume of construction, as well as the maximum capacity of each population centre).
Foto: La Almadraba, © Amigos del Parque

Town planning regulations will be solely those established by the respective town councils, although the Environmental Administration has the right to assume the jurisdiction that is legally conferred to them via the PORN as an “instrument of land use planning ".

The population centres (with the exception of San Miguel de Cabo de Gata) either lack wastewater treatment works, or else these are not functioning. This means the land is subject to pollution or that wastewaters are discharged to sea.

The scarcity of water for potable and domestic use. It must not be possible to authorize new building licences that would draw water from the aquifers.

Noise levels need to be specified, as well as limits on light pollution, both within and outside the urban areas.


We have identified loopholes in the Plans that allow the construction of new ports/harbours and the extension of existing ones.

In the Marine Reserves (A2) and Marine Areas (B5) the installation of sea outfalls, oil pipelines and submarine cables should be considered as incompatible activities.

Landscape and environmental assets

Hunting should be prohibited and declared as an incompatible activity, since we are dealing with a protected natural space for flora and fauna.

The castles, towers and other buildings of architectural merit, which are generally in a state of ruin, should be restored. The owners of those privately owned should be obliged to conserve the properties.

There are illegal tips and dumps throughout the Park. These should be identified, closed down, and the landowner made responsible for their restoration. Deliberate, illegal degradation of the environment must carry severe sanctions.

The mouth of the Rambla Morales is recognized as home to the richest bird community. However, it is not specifically identified as being of exceptional ornithological value, nor is the existence of a colony of white-headed/Ruddy ducks (Oxyura leucocephala). This zone should be considered as zone A, i.e., with the maximum protection.

It is contradictory to show the marine area off Cabo de Gata as being "of great biogeographical interest", and yet plan for the installation of an oil pipeline from Algeria in the same place.

Artificial reefs should be installed in the Zone B areas to stop illegal trawling.

Nowhere is it stated which areas are of landscape or scenic value. Scenic interest is acknowledged as being one of the fundamental features of the Park needing protection but in no instance are these defined.

Amongst the areas of interest for plant conservation, there is no mention of the Barranco de la Curria, which supports the largest concentration of swards of the lily

"Androcymbium europeaum"; nor are the swards of this plant listed amongst the habitats requiring greater protection.

Primary exploitation and recreation areas

With respect to the transformation of non-irrigated to irrigated land, we should remember that irrigation is an activity with a marked impact, particularly in a region valued for its arid characteristics. The regulations should be consistent with the lack of water in these zones. Measures should be taken to prohibit the ploughing of terrain that has been fallow for a certain time, and to prohibit ploughing in B1 zones.

Foto: Irrigated land near El Cortijo de El Fraile, © AP

Crops grown under plastic are incompatible in an area of high ecological interest. Toxic residues generated by such activities are highly contaminating.

Any possibility of a change in landuse to non-urbanizable land should eliminated. All crops grown within the Park should be obligatorily according to organic cultivation practices.

It is impudent to permit grazing by sheep or goats in the A1 zones of maximum protection.

Fish farms should be prohibited along the entire length of the protected coastline. This type of activity is a focus for contamination and degradation of the beds of Neptune Grass (Posidonia) that grow around them and which are so crucial for maintaining the equilibrium of the marine ecosystem to be protected. Their degradation could bring a significant decrease in marine species both in terms of diversity and abundance, and would lead to a loss of traditional fishing.

Mining activity is not mentioned. The mines and quarries that are currently active are numerous, and they need to be strictly and specifically regulated, to ensure that pollution and deterioration of the zones are avoided. Moreover, the PORN should contemplate a ban on any new mining concessions, and prepare landscape restoration plans for those abandoned ones.

Summary of objections to the PRUG

The document is vague and contradictory. The development of rural tourism inland, maintenance of the hunting preserves, development of goat herding and the transformation of land for crop irrigation, would all turn out to be incompatible activities, unless it is guaranteed that they would be undertaken using organic farming practices. The transformation of dry land to irrigated croplands in the C1 zones provides for a tremendous expansion. Considering the large extent of C1 land, there could be a very large area of irrigated agriculture that would prejudice the conservation of wildlife and of the traditional landscape. The availability of desalinated water from Carboneras could unleash an avalanche of this type of irrigated development. It would be advisable to distinguish between landowners who had title to their land before and subsequent to the PORN of 1994. Preference should be given in C1 zones to traditional cultivation.

The PRUG does not allow for studies of the viability and sustainability of exploitation of resources for tourism, residential and primary activities within the Park. Moreover, since the PORN excludes urban centres, there is nothing to stop the development of the Torremolinos type of tourism or of industrial developments like that at Carboneras.

“Good Environmental Practice" does not appear as a necessary requisite for the installation of infrastructures. As far as telecommunications are concerned, there is no guarantee that they will be free of environmental impact, nor that installations will not be duplicated or be dispersed throughout the Park. The resurfacing of highways needs to refer not only to asphalting and road-widening, but also to speed restrictions and the adoption of alternative means of travel (public transport). Bicycle tracks have not even been contemplated.

Occasional anchorage seems poorly regulated. No limits are placed either on the number of boats or the season, and dropping anchor is allowed on beaches frequented by large numbers of bathers. Neither San José nor Las Negras are zones of stable anchorage, this type of activity has never taken place at these locations and, moreover, the characteristics of the beach disallow it.

Limiting the numbers of visitors to the beaches is only contemplated for Genoveses and Monsul, whereas it will be necessary for many other beaches within the Park.

The Park lacks a buffer zone (outside the boundary of the Park) that would minimize Man’s impact (greenhouses, mass tourism, industry and urban development): This lack is provoking strangulation and gradual deterioration over the whole of the protected space.

The urban planning does not include any preventative measure to avoid flooding from watercourses. On the contrary, the ramblas continue to ver urbanized, dangerously narrowing the watercourses and obstructing the course of the rivers with rubble, excavated soil, etc.

Restoration of buildings for tourist use permits a maximum surface area of construction of 1,500m2, or 100% of the plot, regardless of where the installation is situated (except in Zones A1). This is excessive given that the land lies outside of urban centres. It is evident that such activity could not claim to comply with requirements for the sustainable development for the autochthonous residents of the area.

¿What can you do?

Take part in campaign of public objections by Amigos del Parque

More information here.

Alegaciones formales de Amigos del Parque

In addition to the campaign of public representations, we are preparing the joint formal representations from the Amigos del Parque (Association of Friends of the Cabo de Gata – Níjar Natural Park), Ecologistas en Acción (Environmentalists in Action) and GEM (Mediterranean Environmentalists’ Group). To do this we are undertaking detailed fieldwork over the whole of the Park.. This fieldwork is a fundamental to compiling the detailed documentation required so that our representations are supported with accurate and precise information.
If you would like to participate in one of the work groups undertaking the fieldwork, contact the Association by telephone or by e-mail.