Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Losing Beaches In Calvià

Calvià town hall has produced a magazine by the name of "Entorn de Calvià" (Calvià's environment). It is 138 pages long, full of pictures and full of worthy but uninviting scientific detail. It is also in Catalan, so you'll probably give it a miss, other than to look at the pictures. It is a magazine which shows that there is very much more to Calvià than that with which it is most typically associated - its beach resorts of Magalluf, Palmanova, Peguera and Santa Ponsa. Highlighting the diversity of the municipality is a worthwhile exercise in its own right, but it is the highlighting of concerns about its beaches which will make the greatest impression. The magazine has four themes - nature, flora and fauna, the coastline and climate change. These themes are inter-related, but the inter-relationship is greatest, simply because of the overwhelming tourist demand, among the latter two: the impact of climate change on Calvià's beaches.

There isn't anything particularly new in conclusions that are drawn about the effects of climate change; they are ones that have been made regarding Mallorca as a whole. What is perhaps new is the fact that one town, and a very important town in terms of its contribution to the island's tourism, should be addressing the climate change-beach issue as it affects the town's beaches alone.

The loss of up to fifteen metres of beach and a rise in sea level of twenty centimetres by the middle of this century are familiar claims. It is the dramatic nature of such claims that can make it difficult to accept the predictions. If they are right, however, then the impacts will be as dramatic as the disappearance of coastline and the appearance of sea in someone's living-room; they are impacts that will affect the whole topography of the 50-plus kilometres of Calvià's coastline and what lies immediately behind it.

I say this, but as I have remarked previously, it is difficult to conceptualise what all this loss of beach would look like. It's why it would be helpful were there some modelling and simulation that we could all see. We might not believe it, but at least we would know what we talking about. It is only once one appreciates the potential practical implications that decisions, if any, can be made, though whether such decisions, were they to imply truly dramatic topographical alteration, would be made by normally inert and complacent governmental bodies and others is another question.

There are other issues, again familiar ones. Reduced rainfall means pressures on water supplies. The pace of land erosion, and so not just coastal erosion, is quickening and will quicken further because of forest fires. Neither having insufficient resources to keep tourists watered nor envisaging a possible desertisation sounds like great news for a town that provides a fifth of Mallorca's tourist places. Nor does the rise in temperature, though I am not so sure about this; tourists are like curry-eaters, some prefer no hotter than a Madras while others love a vindaloo.

It is the unknown of climate change, the unpredictability, the big question marks which all, despite reports such as Calvià's, make the taking of decisions or taking action so difficult. Why invest in something so uncertain? There are those who are certain of the effects of climate change on Mallorca and there are those who are not. The result? Inaction. Does it make sense, however, if the predictions really are as dramatic as we are led to believe, for the investment that is currently taking place to continue? Magalluf's Wave House is all fine and dandy, but it won't be if a real wave comes crashing in on it.

Yet, the possibility of this happening is years away, a long enough time for a very healthy return to have been made on current investment. But, and this is another aspect of the uncertainty, the loss of coast and the rise in sea level won't just occur on a particular day in, say, 2050. Do we conclude that the sea will be up by ten centimetres by 2030? I'm still not sure I know what this would actually entail, but a shorter time horizon should exercise minds rather more than one reaching into the middle of the century.

My guess is that the report, fine though it no doubt is, will receive earnest responses from all concerned and then be filed on a shelf somewhere. It will be safe enough, as Calvià town hall is well inland, so there will be no worry that it might be washed away. There again, with all the fires that are in store, it might end up on the wrong end of an inferno.

* The magazine can be seen here: http://issuu.com/culturacalvia/docs/entorn

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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