Beaches, always less free, too many not suitable for swimming and at risk of erosion: the situation and changes in the Italian coastal areas in the new Legambiente report.
The quality offer is growing, which focuses on green and accessibility for all. But in too many municipalities the free beaches have disappeared, from Alassio (SV) to Jesolo (VE), from Forte dei Marmi (LU) to Rimini to Mondello and Ostia, in the report the 10 municipalities with fewer free beaches.
Bathing concessions affect more than 50% of the coasts and swimming for pollution is prohibited in 260 kilometers of sandy stretches. Beaches subject to erosion have tripled since 1970.
Legambiente: "Just talk about Bolkestein, we need a reorganization law to guarantee access to all and qualify the offer, to deal with the coastal erosion emergency and pollution".
In the summer of Covid, some trends are confirmed but we also find surprises along the Italian coast. The first is that finding a free place to sunbathe freely and for free is increasingly difficult. Indeed, the beach concessions, which to date interest beyond the 50% of Italian beaches, Furthermore 8% of non-bathing coast because the sea is polluted. To say it is the new relationship beaches of Legambiente, which, like every year, photographs the situation and changes underway in the coastal areas of the Belpaese, together with Goletta Verde, the historic campaign of the environmental association that monitors the quality of the sea waters.
Legambiente has put together the data of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, Regions and Municipalities, and analyzed aerial photos to draw up a ranking of top ten coastal municipalities with the largest occupation of beaches under concession, which include Alassio (SV), Jesolo (VE), Forte dei Marmi (LU), Rimini, Lido di Ostia (Rome), San Benedetto del Tronto (AP), Alba Adriatica (TE), Pozzuoli (NA), Giardini Naxos (ME) and Mondello (Palermo). Along the boot there is a composite situation, but on the whole decidedly alarming for kilometers removed from free use. And where there is no increase in concessions, the reason is to be found in the lack of free beaches, as in Versilia o in Romagna, Where less than 10% of the coasts it is a free beach, a result that is often the sum of corridors between the establishments and areas where bathing is prohibited. The record in Forte dei Marmi, where 4,7 km of coastline is counted, 125 factories, for an occupation of 93,7% of the coast. While in Liguria ed Emilia Romagna almost 70% are occupied by bathing establishments, in Campania 67,7%, in Marche 61,8%. The situation is worrying Sicilia, where the percentage of beaches under concession is lower than in other regions, but in 2019 more than 600 requests for new plants were submitted. To confirm the need for checks are some illegal situations such as in Ostia or Pozzuoli, where walls and barriers prevent views and access to the sea.
Beyond the beach, the sea. Where, however, it is not always easy to take a bath in clean stretches of coast, as emerges from 2020 data of the Water portal of the Ministry of Health, processed by Legambiente. Il7,8% of the sandy sections in Italy - between kilometers of forbidden and abandoned coast, for over 259 kilometers - is removed from bathing for reasons of pollution, especially in Sicily, Calabria and Campania which in total count about 73,5 km out of the 90 nationally banned; while there are a total of 169,04 kilometers of coast "abandoned" throughout Italy. The result is that the free and swimming beach in our country is reduced on average to 40%, but with great differences between the regions.
While the focus is on umbrellas and factories, the disappearance of the beaches due to the aggression of coastal erosion has to worry. Since 1970 the stretches of coastline subject to erosion have tripled and today 46% of the sandy coasts suffer from it, with very different trends between regions and peaks of 60% and more in Abruzzo, Sicily and Calabria. On average it is as if we had lost 23 meters of beach depth for all the 1.750 km of eroded coastline. If the data are unequivocal to worry about is what can happen in a scenario of climate change and sea level rise like the one in progress, with 40 coastal areas at risk of flooding according to the scenarios developed by Enea. Meanwhile, the economic damage will increase in the coming years and risk being really significant. They noticed this in Milano Marittima last summer, when a whirlwind caused damage estimated to be 2 million euros for the public part alone. While according to the EU, the impact on European coasts of these phenomena has caused damage equal to 7 billion euros per year, but which, it is estimated, will increase to 20 billion euros per year in the coming years, with a population affected equal to 10 million Europeans.
The positive news comes from the growth of establishments that focus on a green and quality offer. Many, and many new, those told in the report that have chosen to become "plastic free", to invest in solar energy, safeguard the dunes, enhance products at zero km, provide ad hoc spaces for those who move by bike or with means of mobility electrical, use wood and other natural and light materials for the structures, allowing the view of the sea without barriers and the coexistence between free and concession parts.
“The beaches represent an extraordinary resource of our country, both in environmental and tourist terms, - he declares Edoardo Zanchini, Vice-President of Legambiente - but also spaces lived by millions of people for several months a year. Yet we only talk about the controversy, primarily Bolkestein, without there being a debate up to these challenges. To do this, it is necessary to raise the level of discussion and enter into the merits of the issues by involving all the players in the field, without exception. The challenge we want to launch to the coastal municipalities, to the seaside resorts, to the Government is to open a discussion on the future of Italian beaches: if we enter into the merits of the issues it becomes possible to find quality, general interest and innovative solutions. It is a shared goal that there are greater and more effective controls with respect to the transformations underway along the Italian coasts, to find rules capable of improving and diversifying the offer, of addressing environmental issues, such as erosion, which will worsen in a perspective of climate change ".
We should deal with these challenges and instead the only topic of discussion and regulatory intervention on the beaches in the last 14 years has concerned the extension without competition of the bathing concessions: last, in chronological order, the one approved in the 2019 Budget Law and in the recent Relaunch Decree which extends until 2033, although already in 2009 the EU started an infringement procedure against Italy asking for their tender, given that the Bolkestein Directive of 2006 provides for the possibility also for operators from other EU countries to participate in public calls for the assignment. Moreover, they are a limited resource, and therefore to be managed with transparency and attention, confirmed by the increasingly limited numbers of beaches that are free. Yet it is precisely the positive and negative stories, like the numbers highlighted in the report, that have to push politics to approve a Coastal Reorganization Law that addresses not only the issue of concessions, but which gives a perspective to enhance the environmental heritage and to tackle the problems of sea pollution and coastal erosion.
Uncovered nerve remains the theme of royalties paid for concessions. Because they are certainly too low, with revenues for the state of 103 million euros according to the latest data of 2016 against a billionaire turnover. But here too we must distinguish, because among the 10.812 bathing establishments in Italy we find hugely successful realities but also concessions outside the main tourist circuits, where for a few weeks a year the umbrellas are filled in reality degraded by pollution and unauthorized building. It is evident that there are scandalous situations - such as the known Papeete beach of Milano Marittima, owned by the MEP Massimo Casanova, who pays 10 thousand euros of annual rent against a turnover of 700 thousand euros or the Twiga of Marina di Pietrasanta (LU), of Flavio Briatore which has an annual turnover of 4 million euros but pays a fee of 16 thousand - but these differences must be taken into account in the revision of the fees.
In the summer of Covid increase instead, in a more or less significant way, the average costs for a day on the beach for Italian families, already severely tested by the current economic situation, as evidenced by the Ircaf and Altroconsumo studies taken into consideration by Legambiente.
An obvious political issue concerns the quantity of beaches given under concession, still remember the association, in fact, we are the only European nation that does not set any limits leaving this choice to the Regions, and so far few have applied it. Among the most virtuous Puglia, Sardinia and Lazio, where the minimum share of beaches to be guaranteed for free use (or free equipped use) is regulated and fixed between 60-50%. On the other hand, there are still five regions without regulations specifying a minimum percentage to be allocated to free beaches: Tuscany, Basilicata, Sicily, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto. The problem, however, concerns in fact the respect of the limits of the law by the single Municipalities, even in the Regions that have equipped themselves with norms.
A novelty of the last year, is the growing attention of citizens on the issue - with groups of citizens organizing to defend threatened stretches of coast - so much so that a National Coordination of the Free Sea was founded and this summer blitzes were organized against the privatization of beaches in Massa, Naples and Mondello; on the other hand, the reconquest of several free beaches, from Fiumicino to Calabria, from Lecce to Agrigento, with the demolition of establishments with expired or neglected concessions.
The story of quality management experiences in the Legambiente relationship is increasingly rich. Among the best practices of summer 2020, Legambiente points out in particular the accessible and “smoke free” beaches in Bibione (Veneto), where smoking islands have been installed, equipped with tables and seats built with the wood of the trees fallen during the Vaia storm, and large spaces are guaranteed for the free beach, cleaned by concessionaires, as well as the free use of the services of the establishments (bathrooms, showers, fountains) and an entirely cycle and pedestrian promenade; the national project of the Cesare Serono Foundation, the first in Italy to make one multimedia mapping of beaches accessible to disabled people, an initiative of which Legambiente is a partner and which makes available, for each beach, video and summary sheet; the Bagno Sport 70 of Cesenatico (Emilia-Romagna), leader in the fight against the use of plastic with the “Drink responsibly” project awarded by Goletta Verde 2020: the plant has introduced a distribution point for draft drinks on the beach and delivers a steel thermal bottle to each customer, providing for the whole season a saving of about 20 thousand plastic bottles. And again, the pet-friendly beaches, which allow pets and offer services dedicated to them, such as the BAUBEACH®in Maccarese (RM), that creates livable spaces for people accompanied by dogs; there Dog Beach of San Vincenzo (LI) with specific services intended for man's best friend which include showers, dog educators, specialized shop, pet-friendly restaurants and a natural park behind the beach; Pluto beachalways in Bibbione, the largest in Italy to welcome dogs, with private fenced areas, a bowl of water for each bed, events with qualified dog trainers and the Bathroom 81 of Rimini offering fenced boxes, agility dog and walking areas, dog fountains. Finally, the Regional Park of S. Andrea Island and Coast of Punta Pizzo (Puglia), where the conservation of the area has been entrusted to Legambiente Gallipoli which takes care of the creation of the updated Habitats Map, to identify with eco-compatible criteria areas used for temporary parking for the service of tourist-recreational-coastal activities, cleaning, beached posidonia, the wetlands of the Samari canal and the health of some animal species.
"The report tells extraordinary stories of innovation and open problems that we need to worry about: a coexistence that weighs like a boulder on the future of many territories and on the ability to transform the consequences of climate change into a redevelopment challenge - he declares Sebastiano Venneri, Legambiente tourism manager - We can no longer afford it, because every year kilometers of beaches disappear due to coastal erosion and because together with the system of ports, cities and seaside villages, protected areas, it represents a key resource for the revival of the country, which could be strengthened also thanks to a more qualified and diversified offer by area and seasonality. The mistake not to be committed is to continue to deal separately with issues that require integrated policies and planning of recovery interventions, sustainable and accessible tourism, transparent rules and isolation for those who do not respect them ".
Legambiente's priorities for a Beach Reorganization Law. 1 Guarantee the right to free and free use of the beaches, setting limits on the percentage given in concession and a prevalent share of free beaches for each Municipality, but also pushing towards lighter forms of concession; 2 reward the quality of the offer on the beaches under concession, that is, those who focus on an environmental logic increasingly integrated with the territory and on local and family businesses capable of guaranteeing employment; 3 adequate rents with resources to be used to redevelop the natural heritage, with a part of the same that remains to the Municipalities, as also requested by the bathers; 4 a national strategy for erosion, pollution and climate adaptation, which covers all 8 thousand kilometers of Italian coasts, half of which are subject to erosion, and the guarantee of the right to a clean sea, returning to bathing waters subject to bad purification or no longer sampled.