Friday, 15 September 2023, 16:08
The 25 main municipalities of Malaga province suffer from the same kind of problems in terms of water shortages, lack of efficient public road and rail transport and housing problems, among others.
With this common ground, the mayors of those municipalities closest to Malaga city, plus ones the length of the Costa del Sol, recently gathered together on the invitation of the mayor of Malaga city. The aim was to create a common front to demand the investment needed from the Junta de Andalucía regional government and the Spanish government.
SUR asked many of these mayors what their biggest investment demands are. The answers provide a snapshot of the main shortcomings of Malaga province.
These include tackling the long-term drought, for example by building desalination plants to turn seawater into drinking water and the reuse of wastewater for irrigation.
There is also a call for improvements in road and rail communications. These include the decades-old but elusive coastal rail project - which the mayors aspire to take from Nerja to Estepona - as well as improvements to avoid traffic jams in key bottleneck areas of the Costa and inland.
As for housing, the mayor of Malaga is leading calls for greater coordination between councils in the greater Malaga area to build the homes needed.
The driving force behind the initiative to bring 25 local mayors together is the mayor of Malaga city, Francisco de la Torre. He says the shortage of water is one of the key problems that the forum has to address. De la Torre stresses the need to reduce leaks in the pipe network.
"We [Malaga] lose 22% [of water], but some municipalities are on 50% or more, which is pouring half away."
He also emphasises transport: a longer trainline down the coast and more buses connecting local towns, linked to his plan to build two new public transport hubs in the city.
He also points out that Malaga is short of housing for its tech-job boom. There should be more building in nearby towns, such as Rincón, Alhaurín, Cártama and Torremolinos, he argues.
The mayor of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, emphasises the need to build breakwaters to stabilise the town's beaches: "No matter how much effort the town hall goes to in terms of maintenance, it is totally insufficient, so this has to be our main concern."
In addition, she emphasises the need for road projects, such as the third lane between Puerto Banús and San Pedro and the AP-7. "We need a solution to the motorway issue. We have the most expensive toll in Spain and an answer has to be found not only for Marbella, but for the whole of the Costa del Sol," says the mayor.
"We have to take seriously the issue of distances, as there is no provision for a train [to Marbella] and unfortunately there is no provision for roads either. I think that has to be the biggest joint demand, not withstanding everything else the government is not doing in Marbella or on the coast."
Getting around, water and beaches are among the main concerns of the municipality. In the case of mobility, Margarita del Cid believes the solution lies in improving the current Cercanías line.
In terms of water, she is asking for recycling and desalination to be explored more. More effort has to be made to stop beaches being eroded.
Torremolinos is also demanding more and better health facilities and a greater share of state taxes.
In addition to making it easier to get around and better management of water resources due to drought, which are common concerns throughout the province, the Mijas council team is focusing on improvement to education and health facilities.
"We have been calling for decades for a hospital to be built, improvement to the health centre in Las Lagunas and the extension and creation of educational centres in areas that have grown considerably in recent years, such as Las Lagunas, La Cala and Calahonda," says the team of Socialist mayor Josele González.
"As the third largest municipality in Malaga province, we are up for the challenge of pulling our weight, working to tackle the main problems and respond to the concerns of the people of Malaga and Mijas, making our claims to each authority as relevant, regardless of the political badge of who runs it," it adds.
Benalmádena joins calls for improvement of the local Cercanías rail line and wants new stations, such as the one planned in Nueva Torrequebrada.
Water is another of the main concerns of mayor Juan Antonio Lara. "We want a commitment from the authorities to push clear measures for rational water use and to alleviate the drought."
Ana Mula's council is calling for «firm and decisive solutions to the problem of sand erosion on Fuengirola's beaches».
The town is also demanding improvements in water supply infrastructure so that more water can be reused and less wasted.
Mula also wants improvements in the collection and treatment of rubbish and recycling.
The mayor of Estepona, José María García Urbano, explains his team has already drawn up a plan for an Estepona desalination plant to make the town less dependent on other sources for its water.
The mayor is also keen to stress that growth in parts of the Costa has to be contained and limits set on what is a sustainable capacity for development.
The mayor of Vélez-Málaga, Jesús Lupiáñez, is very worried about the drought.
"We hope that as soon as possible central and regional governments agree so we get the desalination plant, with a commitment from central government of 100 million euros," explains the mayor.
He argues for a coastal train to Malaga from Nerja.
Mayor of Rincón de la Victoria Francisco Salado, who is also president of the Diputación (provincial authority), stresses that in terms of mobility, the priority is clear for all the town halls:
"Until we get coastal train lines, which is the real solution, we need a bus service with better frequency and reduced journey times, making them more attractive for users."
These projects, he says, need central government action with EU funds.
The mayor of Nerja, José Alberto Armijo, emphasises the projects related to the drought, urging the handover of Nerja's long-awaited sewage treatment plant, which is still being tested by the government, to the council.
In terms of mobility, Armijo highlights the need for a third access from the A-7 motorway through the Punta Lara area.
For the mayor of Torrox, Óscar Medina, the fundamental issues are road communications, the coastal train and the drought.
"With the [EU] Next Generation funds we have to finance a large desalination plant for the Axarquía, because avocados and mangoes are the trademark of this eastern area and we have to safeguard resources."
Mayor of Antequera Manuel Barón sees this meeting of main local mayors as vital to plan development.
He has prioritised the need for better sharing of water assets across Spain and urges water to be piped from areas with bigger reservoirs, such as the awaited link to the Antequera area from nearby Iznájar reservoir in Cordoba province.
The mayor of Coín, Francisco Santos, points out that the province is the fastest growing in Spain.
"We are going to need to develop a range of essential infrastructure for this growth to be sustainable, in terms of logistics and industrial land, housing, water and electricity supply and transport."
He says Coín is ready to play its part in that expansion.
Mayor of Alhaurín el Grande Antonio Bermúdez has crticised poor water treatment facilities available in his municipality and the the province overall. He also sees connectivity as important.
"An effort must be made to improve transport with Malaga and villages as there is virtually no public transport connecting these with each other," he adds.
Juan Luis Villalón, mayor of Casares, supports a new desalination plant in Marbella, but also the need to build a dam, near Jimena de la Frontera, to guarantee the water supply in Casares.
On mobility, Villalón defends the need for a coastal train and urges all municipalities to plan future housing needs together for the Costa in a sustainable way.
Other contributors to this article : Eugenio Cabezas, Lorena Cádiz, David Lerma, Alba Tenza, Andrea Jiménez, Antonio J. Guerrero, Chus Heredia and Neil Hesketh.
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