From 26 to 28 January 2023, Rutgerd Boelens, Jerry van de Berge, and Bibiana Duarte-Abadia attended the 12th Iberian Water Management and Planning Congress in Murcia, Spain, led by the New Water Culture Foundation (FNCA, Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua). It aimed to gather debates around transitional water and coastal management; water conflicts; co-governance models to defend the common good; and actions to accomplish water justice and energy transition through ecological restorations. Rutgerd Boelens presented the conceptual framework of the Riverhood & River Commons projects. Jerry van de Berge, shared the experiences of the European movement Right2Water, and Bibiana Duarte launched her latest book: “Ríos, Utopias y Movimientos Sociales. Reviviendo flujos de vida en Colombia y España” (2022). The three together with Dr. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo -, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, discussed and drafted a statement to present to the UN World Summit on Water, March 2023, in New York.
During this conference, the participants discussed cases in which the degeneration of coastal ecosystems, such as lagoons and bays, is the consequence of the mismanagement of neighboring ecosystems, like mountain ranges, rivers, and inter-basin water transfers. One of these cases corresponds to the coastal lagoon of Mar Negro, its water is totally polluted by the agricultural activities in Cartagena bay and the expansion of the mass tourism sector around this lagoon. The experts of this case stated: “The phytoplankton took over the metabolism of the lagoon” (Ángel Borja Yerro, January, 26,2023), “Mar Menor depends on the upstream zone that was not protected: the area of Cartagena. This reflects a bad administration of the ecosystem as a whole….It is a major grieving” (Miguel Ángel Esteve, January, 26,2023).
In the second case, Portman Bay has been clogged by mining waste for 30 years (1957-1990). This happened after small miners sold their property titles to an army general of the Franco times. After, he sold the accumulated mining permits to a French multinational (Empresa Peñarroya), which started to dump the industrial waste into the freshwater streams that ended in Portman Bay. Despite the legal prohibition to dump the residuals in the bay due to their high toxicity, Peñarroya bribed the public institutions to change the decision. Nowadays, Portman Bay is an enclosed and toxic ecosystem due to mining pollution, and its port is closed off from the sea. Its soil is covered by multiple layers of external soil to hide the underground pollution. Likewise, the fishing communities disappeared, they only keep the memories of a rich fishing port and the hope to recover one day their coast.