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The luxury of the Mediterranean seashore, the sun, the bitch and an enviable climatology establish Benidorm as one of the most important attractions in our country.

The municipality of the Province of Alicante, owned by the Low Cost region during summer, could be superior to 400,000 habitants. Nevertheless, it is the third Spanish city according to hotel spots, which attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world because of its beaches and its active nightlife, becoming this way in the tourism capital of the Valencia Community.

Known as “The Mediterranean New York City”, Benidorm is the city with more skyscrapers per squared meters in Europe and the second behind the Big Apple actually. This curious record doesn’t leave indifferent to anybody due to the city of Alicante urban development gets so much displeased critics as staunched defenses.

From the point of view several ecologist societies and in defense of the environment, Benidorm’s landscape is a clear example of the destruction of the beach’s natural space due to it is being cut back and invaded by their famous skyscrapers.

Greenpeace has been alerting the incorrect coast’s exploitation and the lost of quality and demand of a decadent tourism and over exploited that presents clear symptoms of exhaustion due to overcrowding, oversupply and degradation of coastal ecosystems. That is why annually develops the report "Destruction at any cost". This report notes that human activities on the coast have been the cause of serious deterioration of the same and the proof is that Spain has lost nearly 60% of the area of coastal wetlands that only 20% of the dune systems is in good condition, the 70% of coastal lagoons have disappeared or been altered and that much of the Spanish coastline, especially the beaches, suffers erosion problems.

The most negative figures in the report point to the Mediterranean coast, specifically in Catalonia, Andalusia and, especially, Valencia, having the last one half of the coast built. According to Greenpeace, one of the most serious consequences of the housing boom may be the lack of protection against floods, such as those that devastated Vera, Almería.

The report also draws Valencia with Andalusia and the Canary Islands, as the fastest communities that destroyed their coast. Predicting the future, if they continue to build at the current rate, the Mediterranean coast would be built up to 100% in 124 years, a fact that in environmental terms is too disturbing.

Focusing again on our topic, the most worrying thing for the different current critics of the urban model of Benidorm, beyond the environmental risks involved, is the export of this model to different locations on the Mediterranean coast as Calpe or Cullera who wanted to develop a similar bill, they wanted their particular "Manhattan".

Another major point of criticism corresponds to the way that land it is speculated, different reassessments of land that favor the emergence of more structures that serve like tourism. The new Forestry Law driven by the Government has caused unrest in different environmental organizations who understand that the rule, which allows reclassify land that has been grass fire, gives free way to
speculators to be able to reassess the property as happened with the construction of the Terra Mitica theme park, project carried out on land that suffered the effects from the flames. It is true that the Valencia Government welcomes this rule, but to enhance the most important infrastructures for the public and not for profit building services for private individuals, as dictated by the text of the Act.

Damage and destruction of the coast, massive concentration of tourists who are not always respectful with the city as they should, suspicious reassessment, speculation with soil, estate balls … is one of the ends of the thread but, is there another side with a completely opposite view?

There are few who begin to say that we can find ourselves in an ideal model of sustainable city in Benidorm, something that clashes inside out with everything discussed above. According to a joint study by the University of Alicante with the Autonomous University of
Barcelona, made some years ago, Benidorm is a model of sustainable tourism. A priori one can put their hands to the head, but according to this study skyscrapers offer an advantage: more tourism in less surface. The vertical construction optimizes not only space but also other basic resources such as a single pool or the use of solar panels.

Today it is accepted that the density in a city generates energy efficiency, and therefore is a first step towards environmental sustainability. Similarly, dense city models have emerged as spaces where more intensively develops innovation and creativity of the need to optimize the little usable space, in fact the Dutch architectural studio MVRDV in their project and book "Iberian Coast“ reveals an even denser Benidorm may be the only sustainable option from the Mediterranean coast, the same line following a report commissioned by the tour operator Thomson in 2010 (" Sustainable Holiday future ") came to say that in 2030 Benidorm model conquer the world for its sustainability as it "can be a destination known for its crowds, skyscrapers and English pubs, but experts believe it can provide the template for sustainable tourism in the future." This report comes on the same arguments that the study of the Universities of Alicante and Barcelona, and that is, to concentrate a greater volume of tourists in one place and encouraging them to reduce their consumption of water and energy, "holiday hubs" as Benidorm can more effectively manage resources more sustainable and generate fewer environmental impacts compared to boutique resorts designed to accommodate a smaller number of people.

Facing two so far, so extreme and so irreconcilable positions, what conclusion do we draw? Skyscrapers are the enemy of the Mediterranean coast or the way for the development of sustainable tourism? Overcrowding of tourists is a scourge by dirt, noise and irresponsibility or how to save energy?

What is Benidorm, hero or villain? Judge for yourselves.

Benidorm before the urban development:

Benidorm after the urban development:

María Aránzazu de Alfredo e Irigoyen

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