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Greenpeace warns of pressure to build on the last unspoiled beaches in the Axarquía

The report was presented on board the Esperanza.
The report was presented on board the Esperanza. / Paula Hérvele
  • The group says the Malaga coastline is the most built-up in Spain and the problem is spreading towards Cadiz and Granada

The Greenpeace organisation’s ship, the Esperanza, in Malaga port earlier this week, was the venue for the environmentalist group’s presentation of the ‘Protección a toda Costa’ report.

The report has been drawn up by Greenpeace in conjunction with the Observatory of Sustainability (OS), which is made up of scientists from different universities and institutions.

The name of the ship means ‘Hope’ but there was little hope in the report for the Costa del Sol and Malaga city. This is the most built-up coastal region of Spain, the report confirmed, with buildings covering almost 75 per cent of the coastal strip.

Greenpeace director Pilar Marcos explained further bad news: “A second golden age of construction is now threatening the coast of the Axarquía,” she said, pointing to the strip stretching from Torre del Mar through Torrox as far as Nerja. She explained that there are already plans to build 680 properties and a golf course close to Maro.

Fernando Prieto and Raúl Estévez, who are both researchers with OS, explained several factors which have made tourism developers and estate agencies start looking at this region again. These include an increase in property sales in Malaga province, one of the areas of Spain with the highest number of transactions in 2016 (many of the properties were bought by foreigners).

Another factor is the recent completion of fast roads, such as the A-7 on the far eastern side of the province, and the creation of seafront promenades.

Arraijanal and Sacaba

In Malaga city, the areas most under threat are Sacaba Beach and Arraijanal, where there is pressure to urbanise the area close to the mouth of the Guadalhorce river, itself a nature reserve. The ecologists also pointed out that Malaga football club has been given permission to build its academy in that area.

“Malaga is extremely saturated; it is a continuous line as far as Cadiz, although so far the eastern area has not been as badly affected until now,” said Pilar. She believes there is the threat of a new property bubble on the coast, and the report shows 53 places where there is strong pressure for construction. One is in the Axarquía and the other two adjoin Malaga province: Motril, in Granada, and Torreguadiaro, in Cadiz. This shows that the area considered ripe for tourism is expanding.

The ecologists used advanced geographic information systems to analyse 21,000 sites along the 7,880 kilometres of Spanish coastline. They have also raised the alarm about the plans for Maro.

“We cannot allow more construction to take place on the coast. We demand zero building,” said Pilar, who also stressed that barely 17 per cent of the coast in Malaga province has any type of protection.

Areas at risk

In Andalucía, 11 areas are at risk. In addition to Malaga, they include the area from Isla Canela to Isla del Moral and Isla Cristina-Islantilla (Huelva), Caños de Meca-Conil, Chipiona-Sanlúcar, Barbate-Zahara de los Atunes and Torreguadiaro (Cadiz); southern Motril (Granada), and Roquetas-Aguadulce, the western part of Almerimar and San Juan de los Terreros (Almería).

“We cannot allow the model which has led our country to economic ruin to continue, nor the impunity regarding environmental laws,” insisted Pilar, who said Greenpeace considers the case of El Algarrobico hotel in the Cabo de Gata “especially scandalous.”