The daunting task of buying a volcano | Catalonia | The USA Print

The La Garrinada volcano in Olot will end up being publicly managed. This is the determination of the Generalitat, which has begun the procedures to buy the private part in order, on the one hand, to ensure the protection of this natural reserve in the volcanic area of ​​La Garrotxa and, on the other, to compensate for the impact on the land of the protected area that will be affected by the construction of a road. The person in charge of the acquisition, as promoter of the infrastructure, is the Department of Territory, which will go hand in hand with Climate Action. Now the land valuation process will begin, 51 hectares spread over 29 farms owned by 27 different owners. “The will is for the purchase to be a reality in a year, but if the negotiations are slow or it must be expropriated, the term will be extended,” says the secretary for Climate Action and mayor of Olot, Anna Barnadas.

The Garrotxa Volcanic Zone, made up of 11 municipalities, is the best example of volcanic landscape on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most important in Europe. It has 40 volcanic cones and more than 20 lava flows in an area of ​​15,309 hectares. Of these, 1,180 correspond to the 28 partial natural reserves. 98% of the territory of the natural park is privately owned. Olot is home to five of the Strombolian volcanoes -with explosive eruptions separated by periods of calm- in the region: Montsacopa -the best known and most touristic-, Montolivet, Bisaroques, Puig del Roser and La Garrinada.

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The latter, about which the poet Joan Maragall wrote in the 19th century, is the oldest in the area with 130,000 years and different phases of eruption. Another of its curiosities is that it is the largest and has three craters of 150, 300 and 423 meters in diameter. They cannot be freely visited because it is the only one that, despite being one of the most urban and easily accessible, has had its accesses fenced off. “The most important thing is that you can enjoy those volcanic cones that are close to the city. It is important that there are no barriers”, says Barnadas.

Beyond the desire to publicly manage the natural heritage, the reason for the purchase of this volcano also relies on the construction of a road. In the environmental impact statement of the Olot bypass project published in 2022, the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park requested the purchase of this volcano as a compensatory measure in the construction of the future road, which will cause the park to lose hectares .

An image of the volcano that the Generalitat wants to buy.Massimiliano Minocri

Once the inventory and economic valuation of the land has been carried out, “the previous one is from the 80s and is out of date,” says Barnadas, negotiations will begin with the 27 owners of the 29 farms, made up mainly of forest and agricultural areas, in addition to low forest and meadows. These lands include the natural reserve zone, that is, the volcanic cones and the adjacent agricultural spaces up to the limit with the urban land and the highway. In this space there are also three buildings: Mas Garrinada, La Garrinada and La Mosquera, the latter in ruins.

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Barnadas, who is “surprised by the number of owners”, explains that “they had always tried to buy to restore its public use and give the neighborhood an outlet. You cannot manage a private space as if it were public”. Now we will talk to all of them and collaboration is expected, since they are protected lands where the owners have many limitations. “In addition, most are happy to obtain an economic benefit that corresponds to them by law, but if someone has a disproportionate economic claim, it can lead to forced expropriation,” says the mayoress. Another possibility is an exchange for land in another area.

The purchase of this volcano is part of the Generalitat’s strategy to acquire, through the Natural Heritage fund, farms with a high degree of protection and manage them publicly. Despite the fact that Catalonia complies with the obligation established by the EU to have 30% of the territory protected by 2030, -currently it is 33%-, the Generalitat continues to buy private spaces where there may be an improvement with management. For example, Mas Ventós in Cap de Creus or the last announced acquisition of 70 hectares in Els Aiguamolls de l’Empordà.

In 2018, the Generalitat and the Diputación already acquired the crater of the Santa Margarida de Santa Pau volcano for just over a million euros. The volcanoes of La Garrotxa are “inactive” and experts predict a new eruption in 10,000 or 15,000 years.

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