The usual thing is that the protection proposal for one or another natural space arises from the public administrations. Specifically, the Executive in the case of national parks and the Junta de Andalucía in the case of natural parks. Here in Málaga, the candidacy of Sierra Mijas-Alpujata does not come from a political program or technical studies by officials, but rather from the desire of citizens to conserve and protect the exceptional flora and fauna that inhabit this natural space in Malaga.
The initiative was born a decade ago from the union of several associations of ecologists from the province to which they gradually joined individuals, unions, neighborhood associations and various groups in the so-called Sierra Mijas-Alpujata Pro-Natural Park Citizen Movement. In addition, six of the nine city councils in the area, including Benalmádena, have backed the initiative.
The proposal for the Natural Park of Sierras Mijas and Alpujata extends over 29,000 hectares of nine municipalities in Malaga on the Western Costa del Sol, Sierra de las Nieves and Valle del Guadalhorce, affected by large urban developments. Specifically, they intend to safeguard the natural environment of Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Málaga (sierra de Churriana), Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín el Grande, Coín, Mijas, Monda and Ojén, the latter would unite this new ecological enclave to the Sierra de las Nieves, which would also translate into a connection with a natural corridor.
These ten years of citizen struggle in favor of this new park has received the unanimous support of the Andalusian Parliament in two consecutive legislatures, and has the approval of the majority of the town councils that would be integrated into the new protected area, among which is Benalmádena that gave its support, with the votes in favor of the entire corporation, in the plenary session held in February 2017.
In addition, recently, last January, the European Thematic Center of the University of Malaga (ETC-UMA) also joined the petition. “For the ETC-UMA, a research center specialized in promoting science applied to territorial sustainability, the initiative of the new natural park constitutes a necessity to conserve valuable biodiversity in serious danger of disappearing due to the significant urbanization pressure. It is also a right of the inhabitants of these municipalities and of future generations to enjoy natural green areas that improve well-being and health with better air quality, recreation opportunities, less noise pollution, and contribute to a socially responsible development of the environment. territory”, says the director of the ETC-UMA, Dania Abdul Malak.
Regarding the municipalities affected by this initiative, from this citizen movement, they explain to Ole Benalmádena that “Ojén, Monda and Alhaurín El Grande are the only ones that have not shown their support so far”, a position that is hardly surprising insofar as in On two occasions, the political parties that govern these municipalities have expressed, through their representatives in the Andalusian Parliament, their commitment and approval of the request for protection for the future new park in Malaga.
The citizen movement states that beyond the environmental benefits, it will also be a boost in that it will promote the economic diversification of cities that are mostly based on tourism, generally seasonal, sun and beach. The protection of the Sierra Mijas with the denomination of natural park will entail a greater inspection -depending on the degree that is granted- in the use of the land in which, for example, the exploitation of quarries could be included, but always under scrupulous compliance with current legislation and hence, this citizen movement suspects that the refusal of some municipalities to protect this natural space is more linked “to the reality of achieving more immediate benefits through urbanization or exploitation of the land, than those that would revert in the case of being named a natural park with limitations and strong continuous inspection”.
In this sense, they explain that, for example, “the Sierra de Alhaurín has been irreversibly exploited in the last forty years, mostly illegally and clandestinely”. Today, despite the judicial closure, “there is still an active quarry and although in 2014 it had already exhausted 99.4% of the area for which it had an exploitation license, it has not stopped extracting aggregate”. Over the years, the Platform for the Defense of Health and the Sierra has registered repeated requests to the Junta de Andalucía “so that they inform us about the closure and restoration plans (as well as the expected deadlines) that said quarry has, given its more that probable exhaustion. The Board has never responded.
The coastal mountains of the Algarbía in Malaga, Sierra Mijas and Sierra Alpujata, are the last natural stronghold of the western Costa del Sol. They have a high ecological and landscape value, they are a CO2 reservoir and they are home to an important aquifer. The uniqueness of its flora and fauna, its geological diversity and its socio-economic potential make it clear that it is an area that must be protected with the category of Natural Park. For these reasons, plus the different reports from independent multidisciplinary experts who guarantee that the area meets the requirements established to obtain this protection and the two unanimous support in the Andalusian Parliament that this citizen proposal has received, its promoters and all those who have left joining the cause during these ten years, they do not lose hope of achieving a new natural park for Malaga: Sierra Mijas and Alpujata, a project that, if achieved, will go down in history as one of the few natural parks in the country chosen by the neighbors and their commitment, for years, to offer a habitat without borders to all the animal and flora species that make the complex of the Mijas and Alpujata mountains their home.
If you want to know more, on Monday, April 25, a colloquium talk will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Casa de la Cultura on the Sierra Mijas-Alpujata natural park, in which Eduardo Sáez Maldonado, Librada Moreno Criado and Juan Jesús Alarcón Alarcos, members of the Sierra Mijas-Alpujata Pro Natural Park Platform.