Destruction at all Costs

An account of the Greenpeace Annual Report on the state of the Spanish Coastline " Destruction at all Costs"
From Las Provincias July 3rd 2008

The coastlines of the Comunidad Valenciana, Murcia, Andalusia and the Canary Islands occupy the podium this year "as the regions which have most maltreated their coasts." Second place goes to Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Galicia. The Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias are also quite degraded.

These are some of the findings presented yesterday by the Greenpeace environmental association in their report Destruction at all costs . The study analyzed 100 cases which the conservation organization regarded as the most serious on the Spanish coastline. The body produces an annual study on the situation of the Spanish coast at the beginning of summer.

Galicia is the community that presents the greatest number of "black spots", according to Greenpeace, with a total of 19 (one for every 78.8 miles of coast). It is followed Andalusia, with 18 (one every 45 miles), Valencia (11, one each 47 miles); Catalonia (10, one each 70 miles); Canary Islands (10, one each 158 miles); Balearic Islands (7, one each 204 miles) ; Murcia (7, one each 39 miles); Asturias (6, one each 57 miles), Cantabria (5, one each 56.8 kilometers and Euskadi (5, one each 49.2 kilometers). Ceuta and Melilla have two "black spots".

Urbanism through ports

The structure of the Greenpeace report has changed as compared to previous years. Yesterday's presentation is limited to determining the 100 most environmentally vulnerable areas on the Spanish coast.

The most significant change is is that because of the economic crisis, urbanism abandons its star role, and leaves its place to uncontrolled toxic discharges into the sea and the construction of infrastructure such as the increase in marinas. Even so, environmentalists emphasize that the pressure of residential tourism has generated a high demand for land on the coast.

The report stresses that the main developments that affect the territory have been concentrated in the provinces of Alicante and Castellon. The report takes care to note the "absolute contempt" with which the Ministry welcomed the MEPs and recalls that the Ley Urbanística Valenciana (LUV) had been denounced in the court of Justice.

Greenpeace has drawn up a list of the 10 most critical points on the Spanish coastline and two, (the construction projects in Oropesa and Cabanes and development of Cullera) are in the Comunidad Valenciana.

Environmentalists highlighted legal actions in matters relating to urban planning as a "significant" element. The municipalities of Alicante, Orxeta, Torreblanca, Cabanes-Oropesa del Mar, Castellon and Nules-Burriana are faced with investigations by the public prosecutor.

The report by the conservation organization stresses that, under the excuse of Valencia hosting the Americas Cup in 2009, a series of projects had been launched involving the construction of 14,000 new berths in marinas compared to the 17,800 which currently exist in the Comunidad (80% more).

The work prepared by the organization also notes that shoreline pollution in the Comunidad especially in the north of Valencia and Castellon, "is worrying" and is identified by the UN "as comprising black spots in the Mediterranean owing to industrial discharges and water urban waste" The Comunidad has, according to Greenpeace 11 "black spots", located mainly in the provinces of Alicante and Castellon.

According to Julio Barea, "we had to leave out many places out in light of the deterioration of the situation facing the coast of Valencia."

Faced with these allegations, sources of the Conselleria declined to comment on the report. The Federation of Hotels and restaurants in the province of Valencia stressed that time has proved that "the vertical tourism development model is more efficient than the horizontal one and even more sustainable." In any case, they added, that where the population increases, so does land occupation. "This is a natural phenomenon," explained the same sources. On the other hand, they regretted the timing of the environmentalists in publishing the report, "because there are other times to reflect and engage in constructive discussion".

Castellón and Alicante

In the province of Valencia only the status of Cullera has been included "because we had a lot to summarise to finalize the report," said Barea.

The environmentalists denounce the construction of more than 20,000 homes at the mouth of the Júcar, the yet to be built Manhattan of Cullera. In addition, they highlight the PAI (Action Plan) of Marenyet and PAI of Brosquil, although neither has yet been approved.

Alicante counts for 6 of the 11 vulnerable areas identified by Greenpeace in the Comunidad. These are in the towns of Elche, Alicante Sant Joan, Guardamar, Xàbia, Altea and El Campello.

Greenpeace alleges that in Sant Joan d'Alacant they intend to use all the land for development, with a proposed reclassification by the socialist council to urbanize 90% of the municipality. Another of the reported cases is Elche, where it reveals a plan to urbanise 400,000 square meters adjacent to the coast which threatens several wetlands. At the area of El Campello, three urban action plans are being promoted, none of which is underway.

Greenpeace includes Altea and Xàbia among the "black spots" because of the expansion of their marinas. The environmentalists complain that the increase of moorings in Luis Campomanes damages the Posidonia beds. They also refer to the expansion of facilities at Xàbia port, which threaten the gravel beach and marine reserve of Cabo de San Antonio. The two projects are in the design phase.

Also in the province of Alicante is the mouth of the river Segura in Guardamar. The association notes that the Hydrographic Confederation of Segura (CHS) report, considers that it had not complied with the Water Framework Directive.

The most serious problem that Greenpeace has detected on the coast Castellón "is degradation by pollution."

"The dangerous nature and toxicity of such discharges has led to UN to identify the environment of Valencia as an major black spot because of its contamination of the Mediterranean coastline. The report records that 100% of hexachlorocyclohexane, 51.6% of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nearly 34% of lead and its derivatives discharged directly to the Spanish Mediterranean "is derived from the Comunidad". Greenpeace warns that of the total discharges of pollutants into the Mediterranean, "the Valencia region was responsible for 18% ."

Indeed, the report asserts that urban waste water reaches the coast after just passing "through a process of pretreatment,” a system that is considered "poor treatment ". The municipalities of Benicarlo, Vinaròs, Peñíscola and Alcossebre are in this situation, according to Greenpeace. The environmentalist organization complained that "tons of organic matter, bacteria and fecal sludge, were being discharged directly into the sea, contributing to the deterioration of coastal water quality."

The work continues by highlighting that the "lamentable situation" has led the Ministry of Environment to mark the stretch of coast "as an area where there is a significant comprehensive pressure on coastal water bodies."

The association describes the industrial estate of Serrallo Villarreal. as a "chemical bomb" The site, near Castellon, is home to a refinery. And both places, according to environmentalists, are important points of discharges. The report also highlights the situation of Benicarlo, which has highly polluting industries discharging into the sea.

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