Spanish lake to get legal personhood as the first ecosystem ever


Southern Europe


Municipal workers clean Los Urrutias beach at the Mar Meno. Photo EPA, Marcial Guillen

The Spanish government is working on a law that would give Mar Menor, a lagoon in South-Eastern Spain, the same legal status as a person. Last week, the Senate looked at the proposal. It will most likely be returned to Congress without any amendments in the coming weeks. The lagoon will be the first ecosystem to receive this status if the law comes into effect.

After years of abandonment and overexploitation of its resources, the largest salt-water lagoon on the continent is critically endangered, the Spanish news website El Debate writes. Political leaders, desperate to protect the ecosystem, now want to bestow it with its own legal personality, which would apply to it a charter of its own rights based on its ecological value.

If the law were implemented, any natural or legal person could file legal action on its behalf to defend the ecosystem. In addition, the authorities would be obliged to develop policies to protect the lagoon.

Furthermore, its legal personality restricts the exercise of rights that would deteriorate the lake, such as the right to property and economic development. That is reported by ABC.es and European Conservative.

A Committee of Representatives, a Monitoring Commission and a Scientific Committee will be burdened with the responsibility to protect the lagoon, European Conservative states.

Citizen's initiative

The proposal started as a citizen's initiative, which gained 650,000 signatures in 2021. It was launched after years of political inaction to counteract the lagoon's degradation. The lake was threatened by intensification of recreational use, mining, logging and boat and ship traffic. Furthermore, sewage, sediment and pollution killed native species in the water and turned the lake from crystal blue to murky brown-green.

However, not everyone is convinced that bestowing legal personhood to the lagoon is the best solution to stop this development. For example, the conservative VOX Party calls the proposal a "Bolshevik experiment of the left". According to the party, the new law only adds layers of bureaucracy without functionally addressing the problem, including improving the municipal sewer systems and implementing measures to prevent dirty agricultural run-off water from landing in the Mar Menor, the European Conservative writes.



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