You may have noticed that coasts and beaches have been washing over the news a fair bit recently. The Balearics tourism ministry, totally broke, is unable to send its little boats out to clean up the seas immediately next to the shores, while at the same time it has been putting the final touches to its new law, an aspect of which is likely to be greater exploitation - by the private sector - of Mallorca's beaches.
Amidst this news, one body has been conspicuous by its silence: the Costas Authority. This arm of national government, and specifically of the environment ministry, pretty much has the final say on anything that moves or doesn't move either on or off shores. But, as an example, it has seemingly been stunned into silence by suggestions such as that which will see hotels developing business on beaches.
Why the silence? Good question. The answer, or an answer, may have something to do with the fact that the Coasts Law is up for some reform, and it could be some pretty serious reform. The working of government and of government departments doesn't normally get put on hold while legislative reform makes its slow and tortuous progress through parliament (and most legislative reform in Spain does make slow and tortuous progress). But where the Costas is concerned, anything other than its usual bureaucratic procedures, i.e. its zealous searching for some pronouncement on coastal demarcation, appears to have been stilled by the anticipation of reform.
The national environment ministry has signalled its intention to introduce a new Coasts Law, but it hasn't signalled what this might entail. Environmental groups, though, sense a relaxation of rules governing the coasts and are getting their retaliation in early; there is no need for a new law, or so they say.
It doesn't really do to speculate, but this hasn't stopped the likes of GOB, the Great (environmental) Observers of the Balearics, which isn't of course what GOB stands for but could do, worrying that a law change will bring about economic development of the coasts and beaches, which is a pretty obvious conclusion, given that this is about to happen in the Balearics even without a change to the law.
Much though I have been critical of the Costas, largely because its actions at times seem arbitrary or even callous (as with the threatened demolition of the cottages of Ses Casetes des Capellans in Playa de Muro) as well as extreme, e.g. through the interpretation of land that has been influenced by the sea (which is most land in coastal areas, if you want to be strictly accurate), a strong governmental body with strong laws overseeing the coasts is now needed more than ever.
The threats to beaches and coastal areas are well-known. The overdevelopment of Mallorca's coastline has been referred to by many organisations, and not just environmental watchdogs such as Greenpeace. Coastal erosion is a fact, the environmental problems caused by shipping are a fact and climate change is also a fact (though some of course would choose to say otherwise). It is understandable that, at a time when the coasts are more vulnerable than ever, the pressure groups should be alarmed by possible relaxations. Indeed, it isn't just the environmental groups who should be alarmed; it is everyone.
Economics are, however, likely to dictate. As are politics. Plans such as those for hotels to stage beach parties, to create additional moorings or to exploit the beaches and coasts in other ways (all by the private sector, as with the redevelopment in Magalluf) take little or no account of what the Costas might have to say. But change the complexion of the Costas, change the law, and a different situation obtains. The national government, as with the regional government in the Balearics, knows it needs the private sector onside, and the private sector doesn't need the Costas getting in the way; now or later.
Changes to the law are one thing, but what of the Costas' role? Government could help everyone out by a demarcation of a type different to that which the Costas is involved, that of land: a demarcation of who does what. Why, for example, is the Balearics tourism ministry even involved with cleaning the immediate coast line? What's it got to do with them? It should be the Costas. Why do the Costas get involved with taxing frontline businesses when town halls are involved in the same process?
The government should proceed with caution and not play fast and loose with the coasts, but it should also tidy up responsibilities, as they, rather like what the tourism ministry is not able to clean up, are a mess.
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