The Orihuela coastline has undergone a brutal change in the last couple of decades, difficult to appreciate for those of us who have seen it transformed over that time. But imagine how those many thousands of Spaniards felt, those who grew up enjoying a coastline where they could still take pleasure in the region’s many original beaches, those that existed before the local authorities introduced the new and artificial ones for the benefit of the tourists.
They played on dune beaches which are now buried under tonnes of cement, dived down into deserted coves where today it is difficult to find even a hollow. They could walk along natural cliffs that have now become sea walks for visitors, all of which are besieged by thousands of apartments and villas, many of which lie empty for the majority of the year.
Of all the places that they could visit and enjoy only Cala Mosca remains, having still managed to save itself from the speculative vortex that has seen the coastline decimated by greedy and uncaring constructors interested in only one thing, just how much money they could make from the business of the brick .
Of course the massive construction projects that took place on the coastline were, for many years, the driving force of the local economy, with a broad consensus based on the false belief that the booming economy was there for the benefit of us all.
But when the housing bubble finally burst it was found that what had gone before not only saw the destruction of natural sites of great environmental beauty and value, but that the wealth generated during the boom was distributed very unequally.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that a recent INE study shows that the Vega Baja and Marina Alta – with economies based on residential tourism – are the regions in the province with the highest risk of social exclusion.
To exacerbate the situation, much of the construction that took place was based purely on speculation, lacking even the basic services and infrastructure to guarantee a dignified existence for its inhabitants, a problem that could only be resolved by subsequent massive investment from the public purse.
The critical analysis of the past, and the conviction that a similar mistake cannot be repeated in the future, has managed to change public opinion. We now know that it is necessary to find a new model of growth which guarantees long term stability and sustainability and one that is respectful of life.
But like any process of structural change, moving from an urban model of expansion to an urban model of containment requires a strong political will to break with the inertia of the past. One thing is certain in that those who were enriched with the plunder of the region will not voluntarily give up their acquired privileges.
This is the context in which the fight for the conservation of the Cala Mosca is now framed, once more threatened by the imminent construction of 1500 unwanted apartments, which would not only irreversibly destroy the last kilometer of the virgin coastline of Orihuela, but would also exacerbate the abandonment by the Orihuela authorities of thousands of coastal residents who already live as “second-class” citizens, without access to cultural or sports facilities, with schools built entirely of portable cabins, without adequate postal services, sewerage, parks and gardens, street maintenance, street lighting and a long, depressing and shameful list of etceteras.
Although the future of the area is by no means secure one way or the other, and despite the fact that the vast majority of residents want the project to be blocked, there are still ways by which any authorization to go ahead with the could be used as leverage to improve the lot of coastal residents. I am told that it could all be framed within future legislation including demands from the Autonomous Administration that, before the approval of any urban plan is given, the long overdue minimum standards of basic services and infrastructures are guaranteed.
The authorities should also carefully study any breaches of previous contracts that the Cala Mosca developer has agreed with the Ayuntamiento de Orihuela, in order to protect us legally, before a possible denunciation on their part. The developer may be required to provide an Environmental Impact Study that does not locate the play areas and other facilities where the protected species of flora and fauna are concentrated as some sort of solution for their conservation.
So can we stop any future development on Cala Mosca? It is certainly possible and it would not be the first time that the voice of the people has changed governmental opinions. We have a Consell that has already demonstrated an ideological conviction in its approaches to any new urban model.
But unfortunately, in order to stop this project the public will now, once and for all, have finally to show their objections to the development. They will have to demonstrate their opposition to the plan and this will have to be done in a physical way. The current Orihuela government seems to be completely oblivious to any argument that is put to them over the table so the matter is now very much in the hands of local residents to show their public voice.
As such Cambiemos Orihuela will be organizing a public rally on the morning of Sunday 5 March at Cala Mosca, during which they hope to finally show the powers that be that they do not want the final kilometer of unspoiled coastline to disappear along with many others under tonnes of brick and cement.
The matter is now very much in your hands. Your presence at the rally is absolutely essential so if you would like to retain the little bit coastline that we still have please do go along on the morning of March 5 and show your support to those who are making the effort on your behalf. #SalvemosCalaMosca.
With thanks to Marta Guillén
Councillor Cambiemos, Orihuela