The decision was taken jointly by the Neighborhood Board of Zahara de los Atunes and Association of Merchants in order to – theoretically – make the area safer for children finally leaving the house after weeks of confinement, but is being called an “environmental crime” by environmental groups.
The move has already been denounced by the Andalusian government and heavily criticised as the bodies responsible lack the authority to make such a decision, and legal action could be on the horizon as it is feared the tractors that went on the beach for fumigation could have damaged local wildlife.
Indeed some tractors have been found to have traces of plover’s eggs, which at this time of the year are in the height of breeding season.
“It seems incredible that these things still happen, a madness against the beach itself” says María Dolores Iglesias, president of the Association of Environmental Volunteers Trafalgar.
She explained that locals only became aware of what she calls the “ecological attack” after a local informed them that the “plovers they were taking care of were being killed by the men with the tractors.”
The story quickly circulated on social media and faced with public outrage, the president of the Autonomous Local Entity of Zahara de los Atunes, Agustín Conejo, was forced in a statement to the press in which he said the beach was sprayed with bleach with the intention of protecting children wanting to enjoy the coast, buthe admits that it was wrong thing to do.
#Barbate El alcalde de Zahara de los Atunes se defiende en Más de Uno: reconoce que fue un error 'desinfectar' la playa de la localidad pero critica a quienes dicen que es un “holocausto medioambiental” ->@Ayto_Barbate @pamiguelmolina https://t.co/yRDzEHImdZ
— Onda Cero Cádiz (@ondacerocadiz) April 29, 2020
Environmentalists are not convinced by this explanation, however, and believe the move could have been economically motivated. The fumigated area was not the town's local urban beach, but two kilometers away from the point where any children would have been using the beach.
Indeed it has emerged that one of the men responsible for the decision, the President of the Merchants Association, is a local hotelier; environmental groups believe the fumigation supposedly on behalf of children was, in fact, an attempt to “try to guarantee that the area is free of covid-19 for the summer” for economic purposes.
The area boasts some of the best wild beaches in Cádiz and faced with both the physical quarantine of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown it has caused, it seems plausible there is more to the fumigation than organisers have revealed.
Andalusian Government delegate for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, Daniel Sánchez, has called for “a bit of good sense”.
By Conor Faulkner