Concrete coastline

A Greenpeace report reveals that Spain destroys 7,7 hectares of its coastline every day

The situation on the Spanish coastline, which is analysed by Greenpeace every year, continues to worsen. Greenpeace’s new report ‘Destrucción a toda costa 2010’ (Destruction at All Coast 2010) reveals that an area equivalent to eight football pitches has been devastated every day, over the last 20 years. A total of 7,7 hectares of coastline was damaged to create housing developments or business and industrial areas.

The massive construction along the coastline seems unstoppable, and has spread to some of the last best-preserved areas of the Spanish coast: Murcia, Almería, Huelva, Galicia and Cantabria. Although the first report published by the organization in 2001 had painted a bleak picture, the reality has defied all predictions. Today, more than 75% of seaside land in Málaga and Alicante is built up or can be built on.

Greenpeace’s new campaign compares how parts of the Spanish coastline looked in the 50’s to how they look today. Greenpeace warns that, despite the recession, there seems to be no end to the destruction in sight. Urban planning, far-removed from sustainability, boosts a multitude of new infrastructures that fail to acknowledge the devastating environmental impact caused to sea life and the problem of polluted coastal waters.

The biggest threats to Spanish coasts are building developments, indiscriminate and aggressive with the countryside. The report explains how local coastal authorities have put all their efforts into converting the highest percentage possible of their territories into building developments. The Autonomous Regions (Comunidades Autónomas) responsible for approving municipal development plans rarely reject the unsustainable proposals that they receive.

Andalucía: on the top of town-planning corruption, nearly followed by Valencia

Asturias, Cantabria and Valencia are the regions most affected by the construction of new developments and industries in the last decade. But Andalusia occupies the top spot in abusive urban development. Besides the almost 700,000 new homes planned for its coastline, there are 41,800 illegal constructions and 200 golf courses either built or planned. This autonomous region also has the greatest number of cases of urban corruption. Following Andalusia are the Canary Island and the autonomous region of Valencia, which has proposed the construction of more than 500,000 new homes and nine golf courses. In 2004, each square metre housed an average of 288 tons of cement. Valencia has also seen some of the highest increases in artificial land, increasing 50% from 1987 to 2005. The region has also seen a 95% increase in construction on its coastline from 1987, with a marina every 11 kilometres along the coast. In the report, Greenpeace claims Valencia’s courts are “flooded with complaints of urban development land use offences”. The town of Orihuela has up to 30,000 illegal residences. The report points out that the successive visits of commissions sent by the European Parliament to investigate the complaints about Valencia’s planning regulations have been treated with utter disdain by the regional government, which has opted to ignore warnings from Europe and continue with a policy that is causing enormous damage to the natural, cultural and social heritage of the region.

Murcia sits in fourth position, as 1.137 homes will be built along each kilometre of its 300 kilometre-long coastline, along with hotels and golf complexes.

Bahía del Hornillo (Águilas, Murcia)







 Hornillo’s Bay in Águilas (Murcia)


Galicia’s wild coastline, also in danger

Galicia, on Spain’s northern coast, famous for its wild coastline, has scheduled the construction of 800,000 new homes over the next few years, equal to the total amount of homes ever constructed along the region’s coastline. A grey wave of concrete and cement has already invaded the coast of Galicia with Mediterranean-style urban developments. However, the economy of the region’s coast continues to be based on fishing, seafood and searelated industries. The tourism industry is generally much more concerned with cuisine and conserving the landscape. Attempts are now being made to convert this into property speculation.

Unlike its neighbours Asturias and Cantabria, Galicia still has no specific regulation to project and control construction on the coast, although this is expected for December 2011. On the other hand, Galicia has one of the highest percentages of moorings per vessel (1,66 moorings per boat). This is ten times higher than Italy, which has ten times as much coastline as Galicia. In spite of this, the new sporting marina plan presented by Portos de Galicia, the government department for Coast and Sea Sector affairs, proposes increasing the current moorings from 11.600 to 31.000. What is especially worrying is that publicly owned spaces are to completely lose their natural resources. This will have a direct impact on tourists who come for the beaches and on sectors such as the fishing and seafood industries, with 20.000 direct jobs responsible for 10% of the Gross Interior Product of Galicia.

Manquiña beach in Teis (Vigo)  Manquiña beach  Teis (Vigo, Galicia)

Waste spillage in the Lavadoiro River, near the Natural Park Fragas do Eume

Lastly, a serious debate on the pollution problems in the Galician estuaries is required, as these are probably the most serious in the entire Iberian Peninsula. The industrial development around the estuaries and the discharge of effluent due to the little or scant treatment of sewage has left an indelible mark on the coast of Galicia. All this contamination is affecting the banks of shellfish to the extent that 96% of the shellfish taken from the Estuaries of Galicia are outside the limits for human consumption.

Only the 11 % of non-protected coastline of Catalonia is free from construction plans. Almost half of the Catalan coast has already been developed, and 46.5% of its 700 kilometres of coastline is occupied. Despite this, millions of new dwellings are planned, in some cases invading the first 500 metres of the coast. Catalonia is also responsible for 42% of the pollution spilled directly into the Spanish Mediterranean.

Finally, in the Basque Country and Asturias there are almost 200.000 new homes along with 17 golf courses planned. In recent years, development has become more aggressive due to urbanization fever on the Mediterranean Coast. Also some of Cantabria’s coastal councils have emulated the Costa del Sol and Costa del Levante models by aggressively developing their territories, invading the coastal fringe and protected areas. On 284 kilometres of coastline, there are almost 1.000 illegal buildings in Cantabria subject to demolition orders.

Spain is the country with the most public money invested in maintaining the real estate sector, and this is not a good sign for the preservation of non-developed natural spaces. Greenpeace calls for the respect of protected areas, the control of corruption and the enforcement of current legislation, as well as the strengthening of plans against pollution. The situation in some places is very alarming: the activities of the chemical industry in Huelva and Tarragona and the condition of the estuaries of Galicia need urgent attention. Thus, the organization also highlights the importance of reviewing planning laws to limit growth to a sustainable rate, guaranteeing and stabilising the development of economic sectors involved.

Benidorm coastline (Costa Blanca, Spain)


Greenpeace action in the Algarrobico Hotel (Cabo de Gata, Almería)


~ by promisegreen on 01/06/2011.

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