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The demonstration took place in Malaga city on Friday Marilú Báez
Costa del Sol business owners: 'If there are no swimming pools this summer people will change their holiday destination'
Drought crisis

Costa del Sol business owners: 'If there are no swimming pools this summer people will change their holiday destination'

Tourist apartment owners, garden and swimming pool maintenance companies and lifeguard trainers have called on the Junta to make the irrigation and private pool filling regulations more flexible - and not just allow hotels, leisure facilities and campsites an exemption

Chus Heredia

Malaga

Monday, 8 April 2024, 16:59

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"Without gardens and swimming pools, we are going to ruin," was the main slogan when gardeners, lifeguards and other businesses affected by the Junta de Andalucía's drought regulations took to the streets to protest in Malaga city last week.

A movement started by the companies affected by restrictions included in the drought decree of the regional government is back with its protests, this time with the support of Comisiones Obreras and the Andalusian PSOE. Some 100 people marched, blowing whistles and chanting slogans with a mutual concern: to maintain employment in sectors such as swimming pools, gardening, lifeguarding, fitness training and tourist flats this summer.

Last week's rally started from the Plaza de la Marina and was called following the Junta's latest announcement to allow the opening of swimming pools in public sports and health centres, hotels and campsites. They want the Andalusian government to make those measures as well as the ones related to the watering of gardens and parks, more flexible. The protest was attended by socialists Víctor Navas, ex-mayor of Benalmádena, and Begoña Medina, deputy spokesperson in Malaga city. Spain's main workers' union CCOO was represented with the attendance of its Malaga representative Fernando Cubillo.

Trade union spokesperson Andrés Marín, from a gardening company, expressed his concern at the discrimination they claimed they suffer compared to hotels and tourist accommodation: "Since November we have not been able to fill the swimming pools and water the gardens. We want a bit of equality and flexibility so that we can all work. There are already quite a few companies that are laying off their employees. Theoretically at Easter we start our work but with the cutbacks we can't hire". Asked about the possibility of irrigating with water from wells, he considered it as very difficult to cover all the needs and that this will only benefit those who have more purchasing power.

Sandra Cortés, from the gardening sector, pointed out the environmental impact of reducing vegetation: "Any private garden is still a green area. If we let all that die, it will increase the temperature, more CO2 emissions... All of this ends up aggravating the drought."

Cracks and leaks

Miriam Jiménez, owner of a swimming pool maintenance company, said the deterioration of partially filled pools is an issue as they end up with cracks and water leaks. "In addition, with evaporation they become empty and there is a danger of someone falling in. It is also a source of infection, it can be full of mosquitoes.... This water has to be treated and filtered so that it is in good condition. We are worried about the company and the workers. We don't know what to do about buying chemicals, which is the time now," she said.

Samantha Austin, representing the tourist flats, which she estimated at more than 50,000 on the coast, lamented the reputation and the consequences for tourism: "Not opening swimming pools in communities affects us a lot. Our tourists, both national and international, repeat year after year and come looking for a swimming pool and to have a good time. I have many clients waiting to hear from me as they're deciding whether to come or not. If there is no pool, they are going to change their destination this year. We are having cancellations and we are going to have more. If I don't have clients I can't expand the staff like in other years".

Lifeguards

Jorge Becerra, from a lifeguard training company, said he is also affected as, among their potential students, there are future lifeguards and company maintenance staff. "This year at this time we had already done many renewal courses for lifeguards and this year there are still none because of the uncertainty," he said.

Domingo Jurado has a lifeguard company and said: "We are 100 per cent affected. We normally start working at Easter in homeowners' communities". Last year they hired between 35 and 40 lifeguards and this year they have hired none. "It's a big problem. I can't keep the company going at a loss," Jurado said.

The rally will apply pressure in the run-up to the Junta's next drought committee this week, which will set consumption rules the municipalities will have to enforce. The ball was left in the court of the municipalities by the minister of agriculture after the last governing council: if they believe they can control consumption and stick to what has been set, it is up to them to allow the opening and filling of pools. In any case, the municipal ordinances of the Costa del Sol and Malaga city prohibit the use of drinking water, so the process would have to be carried out with raw water from wells or groundwater, and then has to be filtered in the pool, which means between 24 and 72 hours of closure.

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