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Right to Fly

Ciudad Real Airport Plans Conflict With SPA/IBA Protected Areas

SEO/BirdLife Spain are appealing for support in their efforts to prevent the construction of a private airport immediately adjoining a Specially Protected Area (SPA) and within an Important Bird Area (IBA) near Ciudad Real some 185 km south from Madrid) a private airport is being built. The SPA/IBA is home to several important populations of steppe bird species such as Great Bustard (Otis tarda), Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax), Stone-Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis), Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) and Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni).

Some time BirdLife Spain initiated protests against the airport’s proposed location. These included a formal complaint to the European Commission. Plans were changed, but only to shift the site immediately adjacent to the boundaries of the SPA and still within the IBA. Following a further complaint to the European Commission work on the airport has been temporarily prohibited. BirdLife Spain, which has been closely monitoring the matter for several years, is still very concerned about this potential problem. The construction of the airport within the IBA would destroy the integrity of the steppe area because of the erection of buildings, runways and other associated.

The case remains a high priority concern for BirdLife Spain as politicians strongly favour the site because of its proximity to a high-speed train station. BirdLife do NOT oppose construction of the airport in the province; but are campaigning for a new site at and BirdLife Spain’s detailed arguments are:1 The Calatrava´s Field is one of the most important areas in Castilla-La Mancha for steppe birds (Martínez, 2000). 6500 ha of this region are protected as SPA due to its Great Bustard population (131 birds) internationally considered of high interest, Little Bustard (500 breeding males), Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (500 birds), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (30-50 birds) and Stone-curlew (100-150 birds) (Martínez 2000 & Gosálvez et al., 2002). Moreover it is a feeding area for hundred of Lesser Kestrel breeding in this region, and there is a high presence of Montagu’s Harrier and Hen Harrier, as the most representative birds amongst more than 70 protected species monitored in the Calatravas´s Field. Most of these species have in common their vulnerability, which in consequence causes their disappearance in most of Europe and specially in this Spanish areas, so these mentioned species are protected by the environmental legislation of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain an the European Union.2 If the airport is finally built on the projected area, it will cause a significant impact, CRITICAL AND IRREVERSIBLE on the birds’ populations for which the SPA was designated and on the threatened species (of extinction). The new airport will have a direct effect on a big number of protected species. The new airport is placed over a highly important area for Great Bustard, with more than the 20% of the Great Bustards of the total Ciudad Real region population. This construction will mean a loose of the critical habitat for the Great Bustard and will have an effect on 50% of the area used by the population in the Calatravas´s Field. Also, some parts of the steppe habitat used by Little Bustard will be significantly damaged. Inside of the future airport there are two flocks of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse with 81 and 125 birds in every flock. These data were got in only two months of monitoring but they are enough for demonstrating the importance of the area directly occupied by the airport for this species.

At least, 43 pairs of Lesser Kestrel will have significantly reduced its feeding area. Other species, as Bonelli’s Eagle, will be affected by the airport building and the European Commission let to the authors of the Assessment Impact Report more information about these species but the authors did not take into account this request, so it is very difficult to value the repercussions.

The building of the airport of Ciudad Real in the area proposed, will destroy steppe habitat used by many threatened birds and it will cause bother to other populations around. The impact can be described as critical and irreversible for the population of steppe birds in the SPA and IBA.3 The protection of the area includes projects which can affect significantly to areas protected by Natura 2000, although the project is outside of the limit of the protected area. The airport is being built outside of the SPA but just in the border so it will affect to the survival of species with conservation priorities and the environmental proceedings must be submitted to the Habitat Directive.

4 The Environmental Impact Assessment is absolutely deficient. The fauna inventory is practically non-existent, because it only offers information about 5 of the 60 species of protected birds based in the area. So the information for evaluating the impacts of the project is not useful and so the Assessment Impact Report would be rejected because it has not enough rigour. The alternatives are little credible because the work went on building in the place they selected. This prove the arbitrariness of the Environmental Impact Assessment.5 In the Environmental Impact Assessment the impacts were assessed in a subjective form. Every impact have been removed for trying to avoid critical impacts despite of the fragility, rarity and diversity of the environmental elements affected.

6 Aerial safety has not been well assessed, because it exists a high risk of fatal accidents. It should not be forgotten the strikes of the birds against aircrafts. This aspect is of high concern because in the area species as Great Bustards can be found which could get weights of 15 kg. Furthermore, this bird fly in flocks so the risk is greater than in other airports. But the Assessment Impact Report proposes scare away the birds and control the populations of the protected species around the airport for decreasing the risk of the collisions. This aggressive action has not been identified by the authors of the Environmental Impact Assessment as a factor of impact for the birds.

Please add weight to SEO/BirdLife Spain’s campaign with your support of their campaign. You can do this by sending an email to the Spanish Ministry of the Environment as soon as possible. A draft text is provided at http://www.proact-campaigns.net/ppsi/ciudad_real_airport.html

David Conlin - Proact international

4th July 2014