Canary Islands consider ban on ‘stone towers’ made popular by Instagram

No-one knows exactly why the tradition started on these Canary Island beaches, but ecologists are united in their conviction that it has to stop.

Canary Islands consider ban on ‘stone towers’ made popular by Instagram
Photo of stone towers on Playa Jardin from Google maps.

For years people have been drawn to Playa Jardin near Puerto Santa Cruz and El Beril on the Adeje side of Tenerife to create their own tower of stones, made by gently balancing one stone upon another in attempt to make it as high as possible. 

The seeming harmless activity has seen its popularity soar thanks to instagrammers and it the area is even listed on google maps as a tourist attraction for the stone creations.





Meditación a Puerto de la Cruz ?‍♀️ #playajardin #stonetowers #puertodelacruz #tenerife #ferie #meditacion

A post shared by Alessandra Cristo (@alessandracristo89) on Nov 8, 2018 at 12:06am PST

But piling up the stones has a devastating effect on the fragile environment, claim local conservations who have been battling to dismantle the towers and return the beaches to their natural state. 

Local organisations with the support of the council and Tenerife government have launched a public awareness campaign which will include posters detailing the environmental damage caused by stone towers.

Pedro Luis Sánchez, a local biologist at Teide National Park produced an educational video for the campaign named #PasaSinHuella (Leave no trace),  explaining: “The stones provide a home for living beings, such as plant organism that are essential for the health of the soil and are needed for insects to thrive. They in turn provide food for repiltiles who live under these rocks. When we pile up the rocks, we take away their home”.

A team of 150 volunteers met last Saturday to carefully take apart every single tower and managed to level the beaches within just half an hour. 

But within a day, the cairn-like structures, which unlike in some cultures have no spiritual association on the island, had returned. 

Jaime Coello, director of the Fundación Telesforo Bravo-Juan Coello that is behind the initiative is calling for more to be done. 

“We need legislation to impose punitive measures on those who continue to build these towers,” Coello told local Tenerife newspaper El Dia. 

David Hernandez, local councillor for environmental matters confirmed that posters would be put up as “a matter of urgency” and that the council will study measures to impose a legal ban.

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Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.