The barely six kilometers that go from the last house in Trebujena to the Cadiz bank of the Guadalquivir are a changing landscape. The mural that recalls that the town was the proud location of the film Empire of the Sun (1987) gives prominence to sinuous hills festooned with farmhouses, vines and sunflowers. Until, suddenly, the horizon turns flat, sometimes steppe, at other times dotted with small recovered marshes, where flamingos walk proudly in the face of the almost non-existent human presence. On the other side of the river, Doñana appears. In case there is any doubt, Juan Manuel Manego, innkeeper of the only restaurant in the area, neighbor and fish farmer, clarifies it: “This is paradise.”
Although perhaps it would not be so if the macro-urbanization that intends to brick up to 2,000 hectares of that landscape of old marshes filled with a golf course, a hotel and 300 luxury villas were to prosper. “As a tavern it could be good for us, but it has a very big ecological impact. It will not be done ”, Manego settles. The fish farmer, like the rest of the 7,000 residents of the town, has spent 20 years hearing about those Belgians who promised the Moon with the promotion of the project and “who, from time to time, let themselves be seen by the town.” For this reason, he is not surprised by the noise that is now stirring up the political fanfare from Madrid to Cádiz, on account of a zombie urban project that has been going around offices for two decades and that has now become a thrown weapon before the imminent municipal elections.
The last chapter of this environmental farce was written this Wednesday by the Guadalquivir Confederation, warning that it will veto the project, despite the fact that the Junta de Andalucía issued a favorable strategic environmental declaration on April 12. But the first was drafted by the Belgian urban developer Bernard Devos —builder of another tourist complex in Benalup—, when in 2003 he became infatuated with an old marshland dried up in the sixties, unused since it was found that its salinity made it unviable for the crop. “Expectations were generated and licenses were even paid for,” recalls Juan Martín, biologist, resident of Trebujena and president of the association for the defense of the Salarte salt flats and marshes, referring to the 1.8 million euros in fees that he has already paid the promoter.
The promise of Devos, determined to build an urbanization three times the size of the town itself in an area without specific protection, caught on quickly in a council governed for decades by the United Left and in which the right has little to do. “It was a political movement very much like Jesús Gil [excalcalde de Marbella], of a lot of speculation and I hang out,” denounces Pepe Núñez Cabral, president of the Río Limpio environmental association. In these 20 years, the project has known three mayors —all from IU— and has been mutating to overcome from legislative changes to the crisis of its promoter and even his death, which occurred two years ago. “My father devised it, but then he sold it,” says Carol Devos, daughter of the ideologue, determined to make it clear that she has no connection to her father’s business. In fact, today it is the company Costa Guadalquivir, SL, managed by other Belgian businessmen, which appears as the promoter. EL PAÍS has contacted one of its managers, but has not received a response.
Trebujena was not the only town hall to be captivated by the siren songs of brick-laden Spain in the 2000s. The Cádiz coast, later incorporated into tourism than the Sol, is dotted with macro-urbanization projects in paradisiacal settings with more or less protection, stuck for years in red tape that is slow to be resolved. This is the case of Tarifa, Barbate or Trebujena itself, where they allege that they are obliged to process the file to comply with the law. “They were wrong at first to authorize it. Now, in Trebujena they have learned and I think they trust that it will be the Junta or the Government that stops it”, points out Martín. The current mayor, Ramón Galán, confirms this: “It is untimely, we are in favor of other projects, such as the regeneration of the salt pans that we are doing with the Junta de Andalucía.”
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But Núñez Cabral does not trust: “Not all the procedures that the City Council has done are ex officio.” And he gives the example of how the council reformulated its report on the demand for future water supply, initially rejected and finally approved by the Consorcio de Aguas de la Zona Cadiz (CAZG) in October 2022. By then, in addition , the predecessor of the current mayor in the municipality, Jorge Rodríguez, was already president of said consortium, after resigning his position as alderman. “He [por Galán] along with George [Rodríguez] They have moved the necessary reports to lift the difficulties raised by the technicians ”, the spokesman for the Trebujena PSOE, Miguel Guerra, denounced this Wednesday at a press conference.
Meanwhile, the residents of the town do not even want to hear about macro-urbanization, some out of neglect and others out of contempt. In a town with an unemployment rate below 20% (a good part of it seasonal) and which has been dedicated for years mainly to the health sector, few are those who close ranks with the project. “Most of us are not interested. In a town on the left this does not stick. It is something that defends the interests of businessmen ”, denounces the radiodiagnostic technician Rosa Olivera, while she walks her dogs. A few steps away, a neighbor who prefers not to give her name, is not so clear: “I want well-being, but that it does not harm nature. I live on one of those hills and the sunset over the marshes is spectacular, that’s why it was in the movie.”
Area in which the development of the tourism macro-project in Trebujena, Cádiz is contemplated.Juan Carlos Toro
Aware that it was not an easy task to carry out their project, the promoters have been adapting the macro-urbanization, to the point of ceding the area that was affected by being in the public land domain as it was close to the river for a project to renaturalize the marshes in in which the Junta de Andalucía is investing two million euros. This Wednesday the excavators were already working in the area, oblivious to the political dust that was lived in the town. “The idea is that it works as well as another reinundation of a nearby marsh that was done with the support of WWF and that is already full of life, although we joke that it is as if the Administration is building the garden to the field of golf”, explains Núñez Cabral sarcastically.
“Everything has a diabolical approach,” denounces Martín, concerned about the ability of the promoters to readapt the project to all the obstacles that arise. Neither the more than 500 species —many at risk of disappearing— that are documented in the area, nor the proximity of Doñana, nor the proximity of the ill-fated Martín Miguel urbanization in Sanlúcar, which exhibits among the abandonment the galls of the brick, seem to subdue to Belgian businessmen. “They are people with money who are not in a hurry and seek to achieve it and, in the end, we can find that they achieve it and it is legal, as happened with the Algarrobico [en Almería]”, denounces the indignant biologist.
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