Besides environmental awareness and the concept of preserving the world from global warming, which many political leaders and people still don't want to recognise, there is a basic precept, which is the amount of green spaces per head of local population. Areas with trees are vitally important because they act like sponges and soak up the CO2 gas which causes the greenhouse effect, and this has a real effect on people's lives: the more green spaces there are, the better the quality of life.
The economic crisis put paid to plans to increase the green zones in many Spanish cities and towns, partly due to a lack of funds and also because it is not enough simply to create these garden areas. Trees and plants are living beings and have to be maintained afterwards. In Mediterranean climates, however, a green zone does not necessarily have grass, because it is not common in places where there is little rain and in many cases the cost of watering it would be too high.
With a few honourable exceptions, the larger places in Malaga province have failed in their environmental duty. With the exception of Marbella, which has 29.7 square metres of green zone per local resident, Antequera, with 29.2 and Vélez-Malaga with 19.09, the other large towns do not meet the 15 square metres per head of local population ratio recommended by the European Union.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a minimum of 10 square metres of green spaces per inhabitant, which is similar to that of the Ley de Ordenación Urbanística de Andalucía (LOUA) land regulation law, which stipulates that there should be at least 10.4. In fact, Estepona exceeds that figure, with 11 square metres per inhabitant.
Some of the others fall far behind: Malaga, with 8.1 square metres; Rincón with 4.03; Torremolinos with 3.7; Fuengirola and Benalmádena, both with 5.7; Ronda with 2.03; and Mijas, with 5.8 square metres per inhabitant.
No figure is available for Nerja because a few years ago it said it did not have an inventory of green spaces and the town hall has still not provided any information in this respect.
By way of comparison, elsewhere in Spain the cities with the most green space are Vitoria, with 26.7 square metres per inhabitant, León, 17.96; and Madrid, 15.78. Seville is the Andalusian city with the largest amount, at 11.27, followed by Malaga and then Granada and Huelva, both with 7.39, and Jaén and Almeria, with 6.5 square metres per inhabitant. Andalucía is not well-placed in terms of green zones, but the question is why have they not been increased?
There was a boom in construction in the first decade of this century, but it was not accompanied by an increase in outdoor facilities for local people to enjoy. This negatively affects the quality of life of the inhabitants, as well as the sustainability of the land.
In Malaga city, the increase in the past two and a half years from 7.67 square metres per inhabitant to 8.1 is due to the conversion of Campamento Benítez, which added an extra 290,000 square metres of land for public use, the Acueducto de los Once Ojos park (15,000 m2), the park in Calle Unidad (4,561 m2) and the expansion of the Parque del Norte by a further 4,561 m2.
One of the places where the figure is better is Marbella, with 29.7 square metres of green space per inhabitant, putting it at the head of the large towns of Malaga province. Parks such as Tres Jardines, with 80,000 square metres, or the Boulevard in San Pedro Alcántara, which is 50,000 square metres, are in addition to around 20 new green spaces created in the past decade which have increased the amount of space by 255,000 square metres.
Antequera, with 29.24 square metres of green zones per inhabitant, can also boast of being one of the greenest municipalities in the province, especially thanks to its Rey Juan Carlos garden. Surprisingly, the amount of green space per inhabitant is featured on the Vélez-Malaga council website: it has 19.08 square metres of green zones per inhabitant, after having expanded in the past ten years with the addition of parks such as the central María Zambrano, which is 45,000 m2 and has been remodelled in the past year with improved footpaths and lake.
Estepona has one of the highest figures for the large towns in the province, at 11 square metres per inhabitant. A 25,000 m2 garden area has recently been finished near the hospital, and other parks have been created on the outskirts of the municipality such as the 20,000 m2 in Bel Air and the 26,000 m2 in La Cancelada.
In Rincón de la Victoria, the figure is low (4.03m2/inhab) but is due to be increased with the 80,000 square metre park at Torre de Benagalbón. In other municipalities such as Benalmádena and Torremolinos, the number of green spaces (5.7 and 3.7 square metres per inhabitant respectively) are below the European recommendation despite the La Paloma and La Batería parks, which are visited by people from other municipalities every day. Benalmádena is planning another, the Al-Baytar park, twice as large as La Paloma at 212,300 m2. In Fuengirola, there are plans for a large natural park at La Loma and Los Pacos. Mijas is also to build a large park, 350,000 square metres in size.
Ronda is one of the large towns with the worst figures, 2.03 m2 per inhabitant and 69,156 m2 overall, according to figures from the town hall. In the past decade it has only created 20,000 m2 with the Torrecilla park and other areas around the exit from the town in the direction of Malaga.
It is clear, looking at these statistics, that the amount of green space per person needs to be increased, especially along the coast, to improve the quality of life of the people who live in these areas. This cannot be considered a luxury: it is essential for every town and city and, sadly, it is not discussed enough in this country.