Climate change: the end of beach tourism in Catalonia?

the essential The erosion of the Catalan coast is no longer a threat but a reality. According to a report commissioned by Catalonia, the sea nibbles up to nearly 10 meters of coastline per year in Badalone.

“Half the beach is gone. When I started working here seven years ago, there was 15 more meters of sand before the water. It’s scary ! Jordi Vera, owner of the Montgat beach sailing school (north of Barcelona) helplessly witnesses the disappearance of the Catalan coast. ” I am very worried. Perhaps one day we will no longer have a beach, and I will have to move or close my sailing school. I already have a lot of trouble finding space on the sand to park all my catamarans and paddle surf boards. “


The sea is nibbling 10 meters per year

The erosion of the Catalan coast is no longer a threat but a reality. According to a report commissioned by Catalonia, the sea nibbles up to almost 10 meters of coastline per year in Badalone and 7.5 meters in Montgat. The Ebro Delta Natural Park, a huge protected wetland, is on the verge of disappearing. “The situation is only getting worse. Due to global warming, the sea is rising by 4 millimeters per year. It’s like a slow-motion tsunami, ”explains Carles Ibañez, report manager and director of Eurecat, the center for climate resilience. “We also have storms that multiply and do more damage each time. Finally, the construction of large dams in Spain in the sixties considerably reduced the presence of sediments in rivers and streams. The sand no longer reaches the coast. ”

Storm Gloria, which devastated the entire Catalan coast in January 2020 and left an invoice of 75 million euros caused an electric shock. “We all became aware of climate change with this storm: the damage was so important” remembers Jordi Vera.

Coastal erosion is a huge problem for those who live by the sea. 60% of the coast is built. “It will be more and more difficult to preserve the houses, buildings and infrastructures located on the shores of the Mediterranean,” deplores Carles Ibañez. “For example, the seaside train line that connects Barcelona to Mataro will have to be moved inland. The railway is more and more often flooded. ”


Desurbanize the coast

Rising sea levels are a considerable economic threat to a region that depends in part on tourism. Within 15 years, barely more than half of the coastal beaches will be large enough to accommodate activities and therefore tourists. Every year, the authorities, like Barcelona City Hall, bring in sand to compensate for natural erosion and build new protections. The works to extend 170 meters the dike that protects the beach of Barceloneta have just started and are expected to last two years. “But this is not a viable solution in the long term: it always costs more and the beach disappears with every storm. They are only patches ”estimates the scientist. “We have to change our approach to the coast, even if it is sometimes already too late.”

The researchers believe that in some cases it is necessary to de-urbanize the coastline: destroy houses and equipment located by the sea, give up creating spaces for walks near the water. “We have to rethink everything and start telling ourselves that it is no longer possible to live next to the Mediterranean,” warns Carles Ibañez. “Within a century, the sea level may rise by 3, 4 or 5 meters. Under these conditions, it is impossible to continue living as we do today. ”

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