Susanne Stamm, on one of the dunes on which work is being carried out. :: JOSELE-LANZA
They battled against the tide when the temptation of construction threatened the entire coastline of Marbella; they were committed to defending the last vestige of what once was a common coastal landscape in the area; and they have convinced the younger generation in the town to look after a heritage that must not be lost.
The Bahía de Marbella Pro Dunes Association has spent the last ten years working tirelessly to defend this valuable environment, by trying to protect the cordon of sand dunes along the western part of the coast which they want to be classified as an Ecological Reserve.
–Ten years after your association was founded, you are still fighting on behalf of the sand dunes.
–And we will continue to do so. After all that we have done so far, we think the best way of celebrating the ten years since the association was founded is to succeed in organising legal protection for all the dunes in Marbella, so we have just begun proceedings to apply to the Junta de Andalucía for them to be classified as an ecological reserve.
–You began by defending a specific part of the coast, La Adelfa beach, against construction, and now you are committed to defending the whole coast. Are you concerned about what could happen in the future?
–We want this type of legal protection because it would defend the dune system from any type of attempted abuse. It will be the ideal shield to ensure that the whole environment can be handed down to future generations, no matter which political parties are governing the different administrations.
–I can see that you haven’t lost the fighting spirit you began with ten years ago.
–We started as a small group of people and that has grown to more than 173 members now, all of them with the same philosophy: we have to preserve our natural heritage.
–Reforestation tasks and the eradication of invasive species, awareness programmes for young people, the Andalusian Environment Prize... did you ever think you would get this far?
–We could say that we began like Quixote tilting at windmills, but in the end we have achieved our aim. We have often thought about throwing in the towel, but the work has been worthwhile. We have been pioneers in a very satisfying task and, something that is very important, we have managed to bring together authorities that are run by different parties, to sit down at the same table. But it has not all been a bed of roses. Many people were against us, especially at the beginning, and we have been denounced many times, but the work always ends up proving us right.
–These days, how do you remember the early days of the battle, during the GIL era, when construction work began to affect the dunes?
–It was in 2004 and a group of nine of us decided to do something when we learned about a project to build a beach club in the dune area on La Adelfa beach. We started to collect signatures - we reached 800 - to stop this environmental treasure from being lost. A councillor at that time told us we had messed up the project. If it hadn’t been us, another association would have come forward to protect the dunes.
–Who makes up the association now?
–We currently have 173 members, none of them originally from Marbella. Most of them are foreigners. And they are anonymous people who often come to Marbella and see that La Adelfa dune is cared-for and protected. All of them, when they visit the area, help in the reforestation tasks. We always have some charitable soul that helps us.
Project in Artola
-The government has given a boost to a protection project for the Artola dunes which had been suspended for years. Are you collaborating with that initiative in any way?
–We are not involved directly, but once the area has been restored they can count on us for identifying the flora, getting rid of any fake mimosas or reeds, because there are plenty of those. The subject of the walkways is in other hands. It looks as if this project will be under way imminently, and that will be good for everyone.
–Although your work on the dunes is the most visible, the association collaborates with other environmental projects in and outside Marbella, doesn’t it?
–We have worked with the Aula del Mar to prevent turtles and dolphins being stranded onshore and we organise informative events about the coastline. But undoubtedly the most satisfying is the sponsorship programme for the dunes, because it encourages environmental awareness in schoolchildren. We work with seven schools. The natural environment is the legacy we leave for the next generations.
–As well as the petition for the area to be declared an ecological reserve, what is still left to do?
–We want the authorities to understand that this should be a job for everybody, independently of who is in power. And we’ll continue raising awareness among children. After all, they are the ones who will take over from us.