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Threat to Los Monegeros (Spain) (1 Viewer)

John Cantelo

Well-known member
Today's Guardian (Sat) has a report about an appalling development that is proposed to gobble up a large part of this fantastic area for wildlife. It makes Mr Trump's plans in Scotland look pretty small beer. The worrying thing is that the authorities seem totally unaware of their duty to protect the environment. How the hell the plan to provide the scheme with water is one of the bigger puzzles. Anyhow the Guardian's article is below:

In the Spanish desert, a rival to Las Vegas

· €17bn casino complex expects 25m visitors a year
· Site should be a protected nature reserve, say critics

Europe’s largest casino complex, second in the world behind Las Vegas, is to be built in one of the driest regions of Spain, with the project’s investors saying they hope to attract 25 million visitors a year.
Gran Scala will eventually contain 32 casinos, 70 hotels, 232 restaurants and 500 shops, alongside replicas of Egyptian pyramids and Roman temples. There will even be a copy of the Pentagon - which will serve as a hotel in Spyland, a theme park dedicated to all things 007. And, because this is Spain, there will be a bullring.

The complex will be built on 2,000 hectares (4,943 acres) of steppe in Los Monegros, Aragón. Developers say it will open by 2015. The British-based consortium, International Leisure Development (ILD), settled on east Spain after plans to build in Dubai and France fell through. Millions of euros are being spent on nearby Zaragoza, improving its transport connections in time for next year’s World Expo, making it the ideal location, according to ILD.
The regional government gave the go-ahead to the €17bn (£12.1bn) Gran Scala, arguing that the site is desert, where nothing grows, and that it is ripe for construction.

But Greenpeace disagrees. It accuses the Aragón government of dishonesty in the way it has presented the project, arguing that the land is a rich nature reserve that should be protected, not built upon.

“Los Monegros is a place of great natural biodiversity, with a huge range of species from Africa and Asia that have been very well conserved over the last five million years,” said Julio Barea of Greenpeace. “In the last five years alone, 200 new species have been discovered there.

“In any other country, it would be a national park, strictly protected. What the politicians in Aragón are doing is shameful - telling voters that there is nothing there worth protecting, when it is in fact a zone rich in animal and plant life.”

The comparison with Las Vegas is more apt than the developers realise, said Barea. The demands of the casinos, hotels and houses in Las Vegas are causing the Colorado river to run dry. “Over here, in one of the driest regions of Spain, where will we get all the water to supply Gran Scala?”

ILD and the local government deny the complex will cause environmental damage. At the launch of the project in Zaragoza this week, the vice-president of the region, José Angel Biel, said: “This is a very important day for Aragón. Gran Scala is a great hope … We couldn’t let the opportunity pass.”

It believes that the projected 25 million visitors a year, 80% of whom are expected to come from outside Spain, will bring in €600m in taxes annually for the region.

Central government could also receive around €1bn in tax a year thanks to a relaxing of gambling regulations this year.

Zaragoza airport is a hub in the low-cost air network, and only two-hours’ flight from Stansted airport, north of London. ILD hopes to attract millions of Britons each year, particularly as the prime minister, Gordon Brown, has put plans for a super-casino in Manchester on hold.

But many believe the projected number of visitors for Gran Scala is wildly exaggerated, representing half of the total number of people who visit Spain each year. In Aragón, the leftwing party Izquierda Unida (IU) is leading the opposition to the casino complex, worried not just by the potential environmental damage but also the glorification of mass consumerism and Las Vegas-style gambling.

“I do not understand what is happening,” said Adolfo Barrena, the general coordinator of IU in Aragón. “We appear to be the spoilsports but we believe this plan is a disaster.”



Well-known member
Deeply worrying, John, thanks for the info. Anyone who´s been to Aragón knows just how beautiful it is. To think of a Las Vegas planted in the middle of it is horrendous. Good luck to Izquierda Unida, perhaps anyone from outside Spain opposing the casino should e-mail them, see if there´s a petition or any other form of lobbying going on?

Barred Wobbler

Well-known member
Shocking. I'll be going back to Los Monegros when I'm over there in May. I love the place, but it looks as if it's not going to be there much longer.

This is a list of birds seen on a single trip across the steppe area between Candasnos and Ballobar on 7th May 2006. The birds in brackets are species not seen on that trip, but which were there four days earlier on the 3rd.

Not in any particular order;

Lesser Kestrel
Short Toed Eagle
Booted Eagle
Red Kite
Black Kite
Common Cuckoo
Duponts Lark - in daylight
Short Toed Lark
Lesser Short Toed Lark
Thekla Lark
Northern Wheatear
Black Wheatear
Black Eared Wheatear
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
Red-legged Partridge
Alpine Swift
Griffon Vulture
Spectacled Warbler
Calandra Lark
Little Owl
Corn Bunting
Rock Sparrow
Marsh Harrier
(Montagu's Harrier)
(Great Spotted Cuckoo)
(Golden Eagle)
Southern Grey Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Bee Eater
Tawny Pipit
Crag Martin
Turtle Dove
(Stone Curlew)
White Stork
As well as common stuff that I didn't bother noticing, such as house sparrows, mallard and spotless starlings.

All in a ten mile drive.

I've also seen Hobby, Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Little Bustard there.

And those jokers are saying that it won't have a detrimental effect on the environment of the area!
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John Cantelo

Well-known member
I suspect our only realistic hope to stop this lunatic scheme going ahead is the current financial crisis. This looks like the sort of scheme that will rely heavily on speculative finance. I understand that some similar (if less grotesquely ambitious) schemes in Spain have miserably failed to live up to their hype. Hopefully the 'money men' will walk away from this idiotic plan before it's too late,


steve west

Well-known member
Hi Guys

I first heard of this plan on the local radio about a month ago when driving back after birding in the Candasnos area! It felt so unreal, like a bad dream, and the worst of it was that all the paraphernalia could be seen coming. It was like opening Pandora's box and clapping down the lid before hope could get out.

So far I haven't heard anything from SEO-Birdlife who are the ones who should be leading any well-grounded opposition. That may be because they are trying to keep a low profile
(i) hoping that the project folds in on itself
(ii) because they are still deciding on what strategy is the best to follow
(iii) because they have already maintained conversations at an executive level

Either way it would be good to hear some form of declaration of intentions from them, even if it would be immensely unpopular with the public at large.

One of the unanswered questions is the project's exact location. Although this aspect alone is not enough to accept or refute its execution, it will certainly exert a large influence on its total impact. Great Bustards, Dupont's Larks and Lesser Kestrels are all of conservation concern and all breed in the area. How do they foresee sidestepping EU environmental laws (in my opinion such laws are the best thing about the EU) on this matter?

Water will certainly be another issue, but again the statements we have heard so far have been bland reasurrances that "water availability will not be a problem". That sounds awfully worrying in a part of the country which is still suffering from a terrible drought (last year the public swimming pools in Huesca were closed to save water) and which "controls" the Ebro river before it enters Catalonia and reaches the sea at the Ebro Delta.
And we could take the water issue even further by remembering, not without irony, that 2008 is the Expo Zaragoza year with the central theme ...the value of water and the need for saving water.

What I read in the local press was that one of IU's main objections was the huge increase in CO2 emissions that this project would suppose, precisely at a time when European governments at least are looking to drastically reduce their emissions. Just imagine the construction work, the watering, electricity lines, roads, services, transport of food and other products, air travel....

ANd then next year they're already talking about restrictions on domestic water supplies if it doesn't rain. What hypocresy. In Spain agriculture swallows around 80% of water supplies, while domestic consumption is around the 5% mark. Furthermore, tourism boards (including Aragón and Catalonia) are actively promoting nature/sustainable tourism to these areas that they are looking to transform.

Of course the locals are all delighted with the idea. Tens of thousands of jobs (for a few thousand inhabitants of the Monegros?). Las Vegas in Europe. The difference is that the original Las Vegas was started in the early 20th Century, before the awakening of any kind of environmental conscience, before the existence of European laws on the protection of the environment, before the awareness that we need to do more to save water and reduce CO2 emissions.

Personally, I believe that strong, concerted and convincing action must be taken on this matter, but also that the timing of such action is vital for its success. To wait and hope things drift away from reality or to act before things go too far?



Well-known member
Hi John and Everybody,

Have just noticed this thread and have sent a PM to a Mod. asking them to move it to the Conservation Forum.

It sounds another man made disaster is about to happen here if nothing is done to stop it. How can they plan such a development when even the locals haven't enough water it is crazy.

Anyone in Spain reading this please keep us advised and write to Stavros Dimas the EU Environmental Commissioner, his website is


and there is a contact email given.

Ann :egghead:
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John Cantelo

Well-known member
Thanks Ann for requesting the move - it would be a better place to have posted it. Thanks too to Steve for his thoughtful and informed posting - particularly with regard to the EU's responsibilities. I notice that the 'artist's impression' of the development included several sizeable stretches of 'decorative' open water. Goodness knows how they intend to fill these!

Has anyone systematically compared the promised vs actual number of jobs produced by such high profile schemes? I've always understood that a) number of jobs are vastly inflated and b) the jobs don't go to the locals whose naive enthusiasm is harnessed to get the plans accepted politically. It would be useful to have some concrete (!) examples of this particular brand of spin and dishonesty,


Well-known member
Thanks John,

It was a pleasure if I hadn't had a day off I would not have seen the thread as it would have got buried under new ones.

Ann :egghead:
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