How to prevent increasing flooding of Spanish coasts?

by Lorraine Williamson
prevent flooding on beach from storm

MáLAGA – More than a week before Easter, it happened again. High waves as a result of storms washed away beaches along the entire Spanish south coast. This caused extensive damage to boulevards and beach furniture. Therefore, it is even more important we work to prevent future flooding.

Spain’s Secretary of State for the Environment, Hugo Morán, released a strategy on Tuesday. It focuses on the protection of the coast in the province of Málaga. The presentation took place in the building of the Central Government Delegation in Málaga. The coast needs urgent protection because the sea level has not stopped rising since the 1990s. Furthermore, on average, this is about three centimetres per decade. Extreme weather conditions since 1980 have led to losses of millions of euros. 

The rise in sea level and the increase in extreme weather events are two of the direct consequences of the temperature rise due to climate change. Spain with its more than 8,000 kilometres of coastline is experiencing the consequences. Coastal provinces such as Cádiz, Vigo, Santander, or Málaga can count on flooding and extreme storms in the medium to long term. 

Improving coastal ecosystems 

Faced with what appears to be an inevitable catastrophe for the next century, the government has decided to “rethink” the layout of the coast.  Therefore, they must come up with alternatives to curb the negative impact. The aim is to improve the ability of Málaga’s coastal ecosystems to adapt to the risks associated with climate change. This takes into account erosion, and flooding, but also to promote their natural resilience. 

Coastal Zone Changes 

“We will probably see how the line of the sea moves more inland and thus the line of the land recedes,” Morán said during the presentation of the Coastal Protection Strategy. “That leads to the consideration that some structures that exist in the coastal areas must be relocated in the medium and long term,” he explained. 

Part of the EU support program 

The initiative is part of the European Union’s Structural Reform Support Programme. It is promoted by the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECORD). 

Deterioration of beaches is the biggest concern 

The main concern for governments is the decline of beaches. Citizens, local entrepreneurs, environmental organisations, the Ministry of the Environment, and citizen collectives were consulted about the problems arising from the management of coastal protection. This multifaceted input should facilitate the identification of the necessary measures to be included in the risk management plan. The aim is a public-private partnership so that there is “cooperation with and understanding with all actors involved in coastal management”. 

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Recurring extreme weather events 

Experts expect extreme weather events to become a recurring dynamic. Therefore, that “warns us of increasingly frequent adverse events as a result of the global climate crisis”. This implies an increase in “risks in terms of human, social, economic and environmental costs that we cannot accept”. The government’s strategic plan was therefore born as a “tool for active prevention and adaptation of our most vulnerable flank, the coast,” Morán said. 

Actions taken so far have not helped 

According to Morán, the government has concluded, based on research and expert views, that many of the actions carried out on the Spanish coast in recent decades have not contributed much to the impact of extreme meteorological phenomena. Moreover, in some cases, those actions even had negative effects. 

A comprehensive management plan 

An example of the millions of euros to be invested in the immediate recovery of the areas hit by the recent storms is the extension of the Malapesquera dam in Benalmádena. In addition, €3 million is needed for the Baños del Carmen zone in the city of Málaga. Also €7 million will go to the part of the beaches Venus and Punta de El Ancón in Marbella and another €6 million to San Pedro de Alcántara. Finally, the beach promenades in Rincón de la Victoria and Los Cordobeses beach in Fuengirola must also be visited. 

Better coastal maintenance 

Additionally, concrete actions must be planned to curb the consequences of the floods off the coast of Málaga. Such as the maintenance of the dunes, wetlands, and cliffs along the coast and the restoration of the sedimentary balance. 

Controlled removal of coastal structures 

Also, occupations belonging to what is known as the Terrestrial Maritime Public Domain (DPMT), which includes beaches, dunes, steep slopes, berms, cliffs, swamps, and coastal wetlands are moved. Another part of the plan is also to remove some coastal structures in a controlled manner. It is not specified what exactly is meant here and which locations are involved. 

The plan will also be used in the coastal strips of the provinces of Cádiz, Almería, and the Balearic Islands. 

Also read: Storm damage in Málaga area

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