NERJA – Visitors are increasingly flocking to the river walk through the Chillar River near Nerja (Málaga). To put limits on this and protect nature, the government of Andalucia is now considering charging money for access to the area.
The Chillar River, known for its spectacular “cahorros” or narrow gorges, has become a very popular tourist attraction in recent years, with thousands of visitors every day during the high season.
The decline of the Chillar River
However, this massive influx of tourists has harmed the river and its natural environment. The intensive use of the aquifers, illegal well mining, and constant pressure from visitors have led to the degradation of the Chillar River and the loss of biodiversity. Birds of prey that normally nested in the area have disappeared, the habitat of numerous species of aquatic insects (food source for protected vertebrates such as the Betic Midwife Toad) has been destroyed and protected plant species have been trampled.
The proposal for the privatisation of access
The proposed solution of the Junta of Andalucia is to transfer control of access to the Chillar River to a private company. The regional branch of the Consejería de Agricultura, Pesca, Aguas y Desarrollo Rural has launched a tender process. It is considering charging entrance fees ranging from €6 to €12. In addition, a limit of 500 hikers per day during the tourist season is proposed.
Criticism and environmental concerns
This proposal has drawn criticism from environmentalist groups. El Diario believes the privatisation of access to the Chillar River goes against the protection of the natural values of the area. There are concerns that this measure could turn the area into a kind of “theme park”. Furthermore, they do not believe it would contribute to the recovery of biodiversity.
Furthermore, it is a matter of concern that the Junta is carrying out the privatisation process without proper environmental impact assessment. The process would also be based on regulations on the public water domain rather than on the protection of the natural park.
The Chillar River is located in the Natural Park of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara, and Alhama and has several environmental legal protections, such as a Natural Fluvial Reserve, a Special Protection Area for Birds, a Site of Common Interest (LIC) and a Special Conservation Area (ZEC) of the Natura 2000 network.
Reactions and lack of involvement
The city council of Nerja, where the main access to the Chillar River is located, has stated that it knows nothing about the privatisation process. Additionally, they indicate the government of Andalucia has chosen this measure. On the other hand, the regional department of Sostenibilidad claims to be unaware of the process. Finally, nobody consulted the ‘Junta Rectora’, the highest body for public participation in the natural park.