MADRID – Enormous forest fires in southern Spain have reduced almost 10,000 hectares of nature to ashes. The situation has been under control since Tuesday, however, an old issue is resurfacing regarding change of land use. How to prevent burnt ground from falling into the hands of real estate speculators?
The Unidas Podemos party in Galicia announced it will present an initiative to the government to reform the forestry law. They want to introduce an explicit ban on land-use change. The Partido Popular led by Aznar ensured with their forestry law that Spain turned into an orchard for construction companies.
A spokesman for Unidas Podemos stated that during the governments with an absolute majority of the People’s Party, a ‘brutal counter-environmental reform’ was carried out. The PP was committed to lifting or weakening environmental protection laws. Therefore, this made it easier for some to develop their lucrative businesses at the expense of natural resources.
Requalification of land use
With regard to land burned by wildfires, the purple formation states the PP reformed an earlier law with a 30-year building ban on that land. The then PP government introduced Article 50.1. This opened up the possibility of permitting construction on land burned by forest fire before the 30 years have expired. As long as there were reasons of ‘public interest of the first order’. This description leaves room for a broad interpretation and, according to the initiators of the new amendments to the law, endangers large tracts of nature.
For the spokesman for Unidas Podemos in parliament and coordinator of the environmental group Alianza Verde, Juantxo López de Uralde, the causes behind the forest fires in Spain are diverse. “But without a doubt, we should discourage the options for those who see business opportunities in a natural environment.”
Real estate speculation
Similarly, the spokesperson for Galicia and Común in parliament and the general secretary of Podemos in the same region, Antón Gómez Reino, has emphasised that “these exceptions open the door for speculation with real estate in natural areas” and that the rule has therefore been removed to shut that door completely.
He added that “Speculators should not be allowed to set fire to Galicia. The situation there is already critical due to fires in a context of increasingly abandoned rural and mountain areas. Eliminating these exceptions means that we protect our mountains from private interests and enhance the natural space,” he said.