The recent storms have shown once again how fragile the Malaga coastline is against the onslaught of the sea. Although Storm Lola was not as intense as some of its predecessors, once again it has caused the waves to ravage the beaches in different places in the province and damage beach bars and other infrastructure. They are nearly always the same ones. It has been like this, every year, for decades. Emergency solutions are carried out to repair the damage and tonnes of sand are brought from elsewhere, but they are only ever temporary. The worst black spots are the busiest beaches of Benalmádena and Marbella, La Cala de Mijas, Ferrara beach in Torrox and Los Baños del Carmen in Malaga city. They have been waiting years for breakwaters to be built to protect them.
For a long time the Coastal Authority, which comes under the Ministry for Ecological Transition, has been working on plans to prevent the continual loss of sand, but a lack of decision-making, lack of funds and the bureacuracy involved have meant none of them has come to anything and the problem continues.
Marbella and San Pedro
Waiting for new breakwaters to be built
The coast at Marbella has two areas which are particularly vulnerable to storms: the urban beaches in Marbella town centre and San Pedro Alcántara. The government has projects on the table to protect them and, although it is a slow process, it does look as if something may be done soon. The most advanced plan aims to stabilise the beaches between the Guadalmina and Guadaiza rivers in San Pedro by building six breakwaters to provide a stable area of sand between 40 and 50 metres wide.
These works will cost 7.4 million euros and will be carried out in two phases. The first consists of creating five breakwaters between 100 and 200 metres in length, and the second will install a sixth. Around 5,000 cubic metres of boulders will also be removed in the area closest to the mouth of the Guadaiza, and some 200,000 cubic metres of sand will be distributed.
The plans and environmental impact study are also being drawn up for stabilising three kilometres of coast between La Venus and Punta del Ancón beaches. The details of these are not yet definite.
The extension to the dyke that just never happened
The Santa Ana, Malapesquera, Bil-Bil and Arroyo de la Miel beaches always suffer badly in storms and Lola had the same effect, with waves carving out two-metre-high ledges in the sand and damaging several beach restaurants. The mayor, Víctor Navas, has demanded immediate action from the authorities. He wants the environmental reports and authorisations to be speeded up so that once and for all the dyke between Santa Ana and Malapesquera beaches (near the marina) can be extended.
This should be simple, because it basically involves extending the dyke which already runs parallel to the coast by 80 metres, but it is held up by environmental bureaucracy. The town hall has offered to pay up front and co-finance part of the cost, to make things easier.
Three alternative solutions for El Bombo and La Butibamba
The beach at La Cala de Mijas also needs to be stabilised. The Coastal Authority has just received authorisation to put the contract for the plans to tender, to bring an end to the continual storm damage caused to El Bombo and La Butibamba beaches. Next, a decision will have to be made between three different alternatives. The first, and least invasive, consists of distributing sand in different areas; the second proposes to construct two breakwaters perpendicular to the coast to enclose and protect the beach; and the third, to add a barrier out at sea, parallel to the coast, to slow down the waves. Once the plans are drawn up, the relevant environmental impact report will also be needed, so it could still take years to put into effect.
A second breakwater for Ferrara beach
On the eastern side of Malaga, the beach which has always been most affected is Ferrara, in Torrox Costa, at least until 2017. In that year a semi-submerged 115-metre breakwater was built near El Faro after a wait of 25 years, at a cost of 307,000 euros. However, damage still occurs, although to a lesser extent: the latest storm destroyed about 300 metres of beach. It was decided to create a second breakwater, but nothing has been heard since the contract to draw up the plans and environmental impact study was awarded in July 2019.
More defences and a larger beach at Los Baños del Carmen
In 2015 plans that had been in a drawer for years were reactivated to regenerate the coastline at Los Baños del Carmen and enlarge the beach on the western side. However, after complaints from local associations, the project was reduced to minimise its environmental effects.
In 2019, a further environmental study ruled out the idea of a breakwater in the rocky area and recommended reducing the size still further. If this is approved, the next step will be to put the contract for the works to tender. They will cost approximately 3.3 million euros, but the timing will depend on when funding is assigned in the annual budget.