By Sergio Couto González, ICCA Consortium Regional Coordinator for Europe.
The Monte Veciñal en Man Común de Tameiga (Tameiga MVMC) is a Neighbour Forest in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Anyone living in the community has a legal right and responsibility to participate in the governance of the forest and to enjoy its natural resources, including and especially water. The common forest provides key sources of natural water which are used by many other communities for irrigation and drinking.
The territory of the community of Tameiga is close to the city of Vigo, the biggest city in Galicia. Vigo’s population and urban area are expanding, and with it, commercial interests in land. Currently, Vigo’s football club, Celta de Vigo (a 1st division team), is seeking to invest in a planned “Sport City” – a seemingly friendly name for what would in fact be a huge shopping mall.
As land around the city is increasingly being urbanized, well preserved areas are becoming increasingly scarce. And it is exactly in one of the best conserved forests close to the city where the investors decided to appropriate communal land. This is, of course, illegal. The Spanish Constitution and several laws recognize that common land cannot be sold or seized. But here comes the trick: in the name of “public interest” the state can overrule common land rights.
So, the question arises: is another huge shopping mall a “public interest” project? The community has held an assembly on this question and concluded: “NO TO THE MALL”. As it now stands, the Celta de Vigo football club has won the support of the local municipality (which has no rights over the common lands), while the regional administration is considering the case.
In a public event and press release, the Tameiga community made its rejection of the mall project loud and clear, reaffirming its rights over the land. Representatives of the ICCA Consortium and Iniciativa Comunales (a national organization supporting commons and ICCAs) were present and issued their supporting statements, together with a public letter:
“[…] The ICCA Consortium supports the Montes de Tameiga Community in the defense of its Neighbour Forest, the conservation of its biodiversity and proper water management. It asks the public administrations, as established by the characteristic of imprescriptibility that the laws recognize, that they respect and support the decisions and efforts of this community. These communal systems have as a reason to be the defense of collective interests over private interests, and that is why we ask public administrations, and other actors involved, to join their effort and enhance their work.”
This is just the beginning. Currently, the Consortium is supporting the community to raise an “alert” and planning a press release for the Spanish media, highlighting several similar cases of aggression against ICCAs and their communities, with the goal of making this an issue at the national level.
For more information, check the Community webpage (in Galician language) and the following news articles (in Spanish):
–Tameiga considera su reconocimiento internacional como “un apoyo al monte”
–Tameiga reitera su no a la ciudad deportiva y recibe varios apoyos
You can also contact Sergio Couto: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictures : © Comunidade do MVMC de Tameiga.