House prices in Spanish expat area at standstill as Mar Menor ‘stench’ puts off tourists

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The saltwater lagoon, Mar Menor, used to be one of the top tourist attractions in the Spanish region of Murcia and many British expats own property in the surrounding area. But as the lagoon becomes an environmental disaster, house prices are at a standstill.

Scientists say the saltwater lagoon suffered extensive pollution after intensive farming created a lack of oxygen in the water.

While local residents recall swimming in crystal clear Mar Menor waters as children, most would never set foot in the green water now.

In August, tourists and residents were horrified to see tonnes of dead fish and shellfish wash up on the lagoon’s shores.

Ecologists say that overgrowth of algae caused by pollution can reduce sunlight and oxygen in the water, which can kill marine life.

Client Earth is an environmental law charity and they spoke to Express.co.uk about their campaign to help the Mar Menor.

Client Earth told Express.co.uk: “We’ve seen mass deaths of marine life over the last few years which is really sad.

“Visually, it’s quite awful but it also creates a stench and wildlife is dying off and disappearing.

“It’s starting to cause tourists to not come to what was once a very beautiful area. And it’s a protected area as well.

“People are quite frustrated because they’re also seeing the economic impacts of what’s going on there.”

Spanish newspaper, El País, reported that tourist venues have seen cancellations for 2021 as people chose to avoid the polluted lagoon.

Experts believe the polluted lagoon is now having an impact on house prices in the surrounding area.

According to Bank of Spain analysis, prices in similar areas in Alicante rose by 40 percent in the last six years.

However, prices of houses located on the shores of Mar Menor have remained almost unchanged since 2015.

In August, thousands of people formed a human chain along the lagoon’s coast to protest against its condition.

The Spanish Government recently announced it would put 300 million euros into restoring the Mar Menor.

The Spanish environment ministry said it plans to curb some agricultural practices in the region.

Before the Government announcement, Client Earth and partner, Ecologista en Acción, had submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission to ask it to take action against Spain and urge them to protect the lagoon.

Experts believe the lagoon could recover if the amount of irrigated land was reduced and there were stricter limits on the amount of fertilisers used.

Client Earth told Express.co.uk: “It’s really tragic to see what’s been happening.

“But from what we understand, it can be restored. It could recover if considerable measures were put in place to protect it.

“We think that external pressure from the European Commission could have a positive impact and help protect the Mar Menor.”

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