The idea of a green belt around Malaga, with reforested hillsides, is not new. It is something that environmental groups, local residents and political parties have been calling for in recent years and 20 years ago it was also part of a plan to protect the city from flooding, which was never carried out because the necessary funds from the regional government at that time were not forthcoming. It is also one of the aims of the Malaga 'Carta Verde', which is concerned about the deforestation of the hills and mountains around the city and wants action to be taken to regenerate them.
There is extensive literary paraphernalia about the subject, but the problem is that when a project hasn't been carried out in the past it is difficult to reactivate it. However, there is now a new opportunity to improve the environment around Malaga city, in the form of a project presented to city hall by the Aula del Mar and the Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre association. It is called 'Anillo Verde Bahía de Malaga', calls for a green belt around the Bay of Malaga, and the Councillor for the Environment, Gema del Corral, is trying to obtain the necessary funding for it. It will cost 85,000 euros for a viability study to be carried out and that would just be the starting point. This is obviously an ambitious plan and it would require around three million euros of investment in total.
The councillor and Juan Antonio López, the president of the nature conservation association, say that the project is similar to the green belt around the bay of Santander, which been financed and carried out since 2015 by an EU programme in collaboration with the Cantabrian regional government.
In Malaga, the Aula del Mar says that as well as creating the green infrastructure, it will be necessary to overcome territorial fragmentation by improving the ecological connectivity within the belt and also outside it with the creation of natural spaces in the interior of the province.
Eliminate invasive species
The project includes the creation of new woodlands and areas of Mediterranean undergrowth within and around Malaga city, an increase in the amount of space available for public use, an expansion in potential habitats for two important native species, the chameleon ('Chamaeleo chamaeleon') and siempreviva malagueña ('Limonium malacitanum') and additional beehives in the municipality. The implantation of these would be monitored together with their effects on pollination, to help with the regeneration of species and restore the characteristic ecosystems of the municipality of Malaga which are located in the green belt such as coastal wetlands (the mouth of the Guadalhorce river), Mediterranean woodland (the hills around the city and Campamento Benítez) and coastal areas of interest (El Peñón del Cuervo).
There is also another objective, which is not normally associated with a project of this type: to eliminate invasive species - which is one of the most important causes of loss of biodiversity in the world - such as pampas grass, eucalyptus, reeds, acacia, Hottentot fig, red-eared terrapins and parakeets among others, in order to protect native species.
The project will need a year of careful study before the necessary action could begin, and will take four years to carry out. Those behind it are contacting other organisations and entities to see if they want to participate. It is hoped that funding will be available under a European programme, which would finance at least 60 per cent of the three million euros of initial budget.