Green homework for the Costa del Sol

Sewage treatment is still an issue in Malaga province.
Sewage treatment is still an issue in Malaga province. / ÑITO SALAS
  • Climate change experts are calling for urgent improvements to water management and want a strip of woodland along the coastline

  • Sewage treatment and disposal is still an outstanding problem and public transport will only be successful if it is comfortable to use

Every year, just before Christmas, the same thing happens: the governments of some 200 countries get together for a climate summit which lasts for two weeks. This time it was in Madrid, and, as every year, the conclusions seem similar to the year before. Political leaders express optimism and promise more ambitious plans to reduce CO2 emissions. However, there is only consensus about one fact: if we continue with what has been on the table so far, the climate crisis cannot be avoided.

Another fundamental aspect marked in red on the climate agenda for Malaga is sewage treatment. Salvo says this is one of the biggest matters still pending and that the present state of sewage treatment in the province has very negative consequences.

"The Alboran sea can only take so much. It can't be turned into a sewage dump," he said. "We've been warning about this since the 1990s. At first it was because of the tourist industry, but what is happening is that most of the dumping is through pipes on the ground. The problem comes when there is a rise in the sea level. Many of these pipes will end up under the sea and that will result in the sewage backing up. That is already happening around La Misericordia area," he explained, referring to the beach on the west side of the city.

He also pointed out another problem in big towns in the province: the creation of so-called heat islands.

"That's something we are already suffering from and it will get worse. There's starting to be a difference in temperature between the centre of Malaga and the outskirts of as much as six degrees," he said, pointing out that the green belt referred to earlier would help to mitigate this effect. "The little rain there is evaporates very quickly. With that vegetation structure, we would help to cool the atmosphere," he explained.

Reducing traffic in towns is another subject which needs consideration. Salvo wants local politicians to commit to increasing public transport, but starting from one essential premise: comfort.

"People want public transport to be comfortable. For as long as it's more comfortable to use the car, that's what they'll do," he says. In Malaga he wants to see an intermodal system linking metro and bus. "We need smart mobility," he said.

Lack of awareness

So how aware are people of the importance of climate change? Alberto Martínez is a doctor of Education Sciences and an environmental educator. He collaborates with and advises administrations such as the government and the Junta de Andalucía on environmental matters.

"The success of measures being designed to mitigate climate change depends to a great extent on people's knowledge, so we need to strengthen environmental education in all fields," he said.

For the director of Aemet in Malaga, José María Sánchez-Laulhé, improvements are needed in the meteorological agency's early warning systems.

"The vast majority of natural disasters are caused by high impact weather phenomena. Climate change is going to generate even more extreme phenomena. It is essential for people to have the best possible meteorological and climate services," he said.