In its annual report into the state of Spain’s coast, Greenpeace highlights the growing problems of construction, corruption and climate change on the country’s ever-dwindling shores
THREE million scheduled new homes, 100,000 illegal buildings, 200,000 more hotel beds, 316 golf courses, 112 marinas and 90 cases of urban corruption.
Last year, Greenpeace likened coastal construction in Spain to “cancer” (the Olive Press, issue 3).
However, as construction has continued unchecked in the 12 months since, the above figures show the situation in 2007 is far worse.
In Destrucción a Toda Costa, its annual report on the state of Spain’s coast, Greenpeace has painted a very bleak picture in which castles of sand have been replaced by even more bricks and mortar and more mayors, councillors and housing developers are implicated in corruption scandals.
The region of Andalucía has the dubious honour of occupying top spot in the environment group’s league of shame. Besides the almost 700,000 new homes planned for its coastline, there are 41,800 illegal builds and 200 golf courses either existing or in the pipeline.
Andalucía also has the greatest number of cases of urban corruption (26), which has seen 180 people implicated and accused of various offences such as bribery, money laundering and changing the status of land illegally to permit construction in places such as Marbella.
Following Andalucía are the Canary Islands and Valencia. The former will see the greatest number of new hotel beds built (5,000); the latter, which was recently criticised by the European Union for its land grab laws, has proposed the construction of more than 500,000 new homes and nine golf courses.
In the report, Greenpeace claim Valencia’s courts are “flooded with complaints of urban development land use offences.” There are alleged illegal builds in Alicante, Benidorm, Castellon and Valencia, where homes are being built in the Albufera Natural Park.
The town of Orihuela – close to Alicante – has up to 30,000 illegal residences.
Murcia sits in fourth position as 1,137 homes will be crammed into each kilometre of its 300 kilometre-long coastline, along with hotels and golf complexes.
Earlier this year, the region’s authorities started to declassify protected land at Cope – home to one of the few remaining colonies of spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) – to build Europe’s largest purpose built tourist resort (11,000 homes and 23,000 hotel beds).
Next is Galicia, on Spain’s northern coast. Famous for its wild, jagged 1,885 kilometres of coastline, the province’s 86 coastal towns have scheduled the construction of 800,000 new homes over the next few years – the same amount of homes ever constructed along the region’s coastline.
Tying for sixth are the Balearic Islands, Catalunya and Cantabria. In Cantabria, almost 1,000 illegal homes are pending demolition; Catalunya has 100,000 new homes planned along a coast that already has 39 per cent of its first kilometre from the shore inland built up.
The Balearic Islands have the highest population growth rate in Spain. To accommodate this boom, there are 38 rural and protected areas under threat from construction.
Finally, the Basque Country and Asturias where almost 200,000 new homes are planned along with 17 golf courses.
In the report, Greenpeace believes four principle problems exist that affect the Spanish coast: urban expansion, tourism, climate change and other litoral impacts.
To protect the country’s coastline, Greenpeace has offered four solutions
1) Urban expansion
An area of coast equivalent to three football pitches is being lost each day to construction in what Greenpeace calls an “almost irreversible situation.” To help combat this loss, the group suggests coastal town halls limit their urban expansion to 10 per cent. An impediment on the construction of homes attached to golf courses and marinas will also help stop the destruction of Spain’s coastline.
Greenpeace claim Spain’s tourist industry is caught in a downward spiral, with visitors to the country down for the sixth consecutive year. In spite of this, the regions of Andalucía, Murcia and the Canary Islands alone plan on the construction of little more than 200,000 new hotel beds in 2007. Greenpeace suggests the country’s tourism officials analyse the true situation of the sector and introduce policies that not only protect the coastline but ensure the future survival of the industry.
3) Climate change
By 2050, the Atlantic Ocean is predicted to have risen by 25 centimetres with parts of Galicia, Cantabria and the Canary Islands being permanently lost. The Mediterranean will also have risen by 20 centimetres with many of today’s popular resorts lost under water. In the report, Greenpeace suggests a radical “energy revolution” to put an end to Man’s reliance on fossil fuels. All Spanish regions, the group argues, should switch to clean, renewable energy.
4) Other litoral impacts
The government’s plans (the expropriation of coastal land at risk from urban growth), the green group claims, are not convincing. In 2007 so far, 15 dykes that have converted Barcelona’s urban beaches into “salt water swimming pools” and swamp land in Puerto Real in Cádiz has been destroyed.
Greenpeace claims Spanish beaches and waters are at risk from pollution and alleges 350 coastal municipalities do not correctly purify their waste water before it is pumped into the sea. More care must be taken with waste water, according to the report.
Destruccion a Todas Costas in English is available in a downloadable version from Greenpeace. Go to: www.greenpeace.org/espana/campaigns/costas/destrucci-n-a-toda-costa
HOMES ON THE COAST + NUMBER OF HOTEL BEDS
CASES OF URBAN CORRUTPTION (PEOPLE IMPLICATED)
SPORTS MARINAS/ Nº ATRAQUES
556,000 + 126,750
4 / 3,252
14 / 3,246
5 / 2,514
17 / 6,278
5 / 2,092
327,400 + 52,500
31 / 8,275
308,800 + 23,000
3 / 2,495
2,999,743 + 202,250