The environmental platform 'Sos Costa Brava' protests against the Sa Riera Living urbanization, built on three hectares of pine forest on the coast of Begur (Girona), on July 30.Miquel Riera
The wild and predatory urbanism of the territory has destroyed landscapes, forests and even protected environments in Spain, but it has particularly affected the coasts.
The most bloody example is El Algarrobico, an illegal hotel built by the sea in Almería that has not been demolished for more than 16 years, but other similar buildings occupy beaches and cliffs throughout the country.
Only environmentalists have raised their voices against this plunder.
Spurred on by the impulse of various NGOs, Catalonia is creating a pioneering institution to protect its coasts against speculation: the Conservatorio del Litoral, an entity that imitates —even in name— the state-of-the-art body that has been operating in France since 1975, where It has already bought 13% of the coastline to preserve it from urbanization.
Although the Conservatory may take a few months to get up and running, it will have the budget to start its work in 2023. Neither the State nor other coastal communities plan similar organizations;
although National Parks and the ministries with environmental powers have made specific purchases of land, never systematically and almost never on the coast.
"In Spain we do not have a similar figure, because that capacity to acquire coastal land and farms to add them to the Maritime-Terrestrial Public Domain (DPMT) is held and exercised by the General Directorate of Coasts," says a spokesman for the Ministry for Ecological Transition .
That domain is the strip of land closest to the sea, the first 100 meters, although it can be more if there are marshes or other elements.
Spanish legislation "has a guarantee nature and cannot be built in that area," says the ministry;
the existing constructions in that area predate the 1988 Coastal Law. Beyond that strip there are, in general, no limitations, and it is precisely those lands that the Catalan Conservatory will deal with.
The State, for now, does not contemplate it.
"Once again, the path of culture and respect for heritage and architecture comes from Catalonia," says Andrés Rubio, author of the recent
(Debate), a crude essay that denounces the country's urban chaos.
“What is truly disappointing is that it is not the State that is creating the Coastal Conservatory in Spain, in agreement with the coastal autonomous communities, which once again demonstrates the ignorance of Spanish political leaders in regard to conservation of the territory”, he complains.
The hotel El Algarrobico, declared illegal and located in Carboneras (Almería)Julián Rojas
"The Conservatoire du Littoral was created in 1975 to contribute to the preservation of the French coasts against real estate speculation," explains Arnault Graves, delegate for the Channel-North Sea shores of the French institution.
“Since then, we have acquired some 200,000 hectares, more than 13% of the French coastline, although in some regions the figure is closer to 30%,” he continues.
The autonomous body, dependent on the Ministry for the Ecological Transition of the neighboring country, tries to conserve spaces of great heritage value adjacent to the maritime-terrestrial public domain, preserve the natural capital and social welfare of these areas, and protect these fragile environments from climatic phenomena. extremes driven by climate change.
They look for land of high natural value and try not to succumb to the bulldozers.
Purificació Canals, the only Spanish member of the scientific committee of the Conservatoire, emphasizes that the protection of the landscape is a State policy in France.
"Who promoted this body were not environmentalists, but President Giscard d'Estaing and his Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, little suspected of being radical environmentalists."
In that committee there are biologists (such as Canals), sociologists, lawyers, philosophers... When the organization buys a piece of land, the 15 members of the committee are in charge of meeting with ranchers, farmers, mayors, environmentalists... "We visit the space, we study its characteristics, and in the end we make an opinion to suggest how to recover the place, taking into account ecological aspects, but also social ones”, says Canals.
Wetlands of the Marais d'Orx National Reserve, belonging to the Conservatoire du littoral. Andia (Getty)
That recovery can be done in several ways.
“If the area had agricultural or livestock activity, it is maintained, but with ecological criteria.
Degraded ecosystems are restored and returned to their natural state.
And in many cases the accesses are enabled so that people can enjoy these spaces in an appropriate way”, continues the biologist.
Their annual budget is 50 million euros, and they also receive donations.
180 agents are in charge of managing these places, while 900 coast guards watch over them to keep them in good condition.
This becomes a wealth for the country: according to data from the Conservatoire, these places receive about 40 million visitors a year.
And why not in Spain?
The French example has permeated the nearby coast of Girona.
“You cross the border and you see that Banyuls-sur-Mer has its entire coastline protected.
Why can't we have the same thing here?” complains bitterly the lawyer Eduard de Ribot.
"In 2018, several environmental organizations analyzed the planning in 22 municipalities on the Costa Brava and we saw that 250 developments could be built on the seafront, in forest areas, on beaches... That's why we created Sos Costa Brava," he says.
He gives as a bloody example the urbanization SJardins de Sa Riera Living on the coast of Begur (Girona), built on three hectares of Mediterranean pine forests and where they protested on July 30.
The entity took its claims to the Generalitat of Catalonia,
The environmental platform 'Sos Costa Brava' protests against the wild urbanization of the Girona coast, on July 30.
Ferran Miralles, head of projects at the Directorate for Mountain and Coastal Policies of the Generalitat, explains that it has been impossible to meet this deadline due to administrative procedures, which may still take a few months, but he tells EL PAÍS that his department will manage a budget of at least two million euros in 2023 to start acquiring land in this transitional period.
“That amount is going to be put in even if the Budgets are extended.
When you start a project of this type, you have to define a strategy, look at the markets, develop projects... And everything goes slowly at first.
It is sensible to start with this amount and then gradually increase it”.
SOS Costa Brava believes that it is not enough: "In proportion we should allocate 4.5 million,
The Catalan Government has started a public consultation to decide what legal form its Conservatory will have: an autonomous institution —in the French style—, a consortium with other administrations, or assign these functions to the Catalan Soil Institute or to the Nature Agency of Catalonia, created in 2020. "We demand that it be an autonomous body and that it not be diluted in other agencies, the coast is the most populated, most fragile and most subject to the pressure of speculation," criticizes the environmentalist Gisbert.
Miralles, from the Generalitat, opposes: “There are ways to dedicate a specific and auditable budget for this purpose without creating new structures.
We must find a balance point between ambition and the efficiency of public resources”.
The consultation will end in October and then the Generalitat will decide on this aspect.
Whatever its form, there will be a Coastal Conservatory in Catalonia.
It will be, Andrés Rubio believes, a "first step" against the Spanish urban chaos.
“Well understood patriotism goes through the landscape, but in Spain there is a conspiracy against it.
Here the patriots are only interested in the immaterial —the flags—, but they squeeze the material to extract the maximum benefit.
The system that has been applied, deregulated and favors corruption, follows the American model, when the closest French example should have been followed, which considers the defense of the territory as a patriotic and national identity factor”, he denounces.
He asks that a similar state figure be created, something that environmentalists also share.
Former Bellafosca campsite, in Palamós (Girona), where 12 single-family houses are to be built.
You can see how in several areas the 100 meters of the public domain are not respected.Paisatges Verticals (Sos Costa Brava)
The department of Teresa Ribera highlights that "coastal estates have been acquired in the past and continue to be acquired in the present for their incorporation into the public domain when it is considered convenient for the protection of certain enclaves", without specifying which ones or for what amounts.
Purificació Canals confirms that land has been bought at very specific times with both the PP and PSOE governments, especially from the National Parks autonomous body.
“The State has taken over farms, but not systematically, and besides, nothing has been done with them nor have they opened them to the public.
That is why a Spanish Coastal Conservatory is needed, to give continuity to these purchasing and management policies”.
The Sa Riera Jardins urbanization in Begur (Girona), built on three hectares of Mediterranean pine forests.
Miquel Riera (Sos Costa Brava)
Nor do the coastal communities have plans to copy this organism.
The Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands respond that they do not have jurisdiction over coasts and that they already have large protected spaces on the coast.
However, Catalonia only has minimal powers regarding the management of authorizations in the public domain and, in any case, the range on which action must be taken is much broader.
“In the Balearic Islands, almost all the protected natural spaces arose to avoid the large constructions that were planned there,” says a spokeswoman for the island Executive.
Meanwhile, Murcia does not consider this figure necessary, despite being the community with the most cases of corruption in Spain —according to the CGPJ case repository and a study by the University of La Laguna—, mostly linked to predatory coastal urbanism.
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