In the south of the peninsula, the Coast of Almeria looks out over the Mediterranean Sea. It’s towering cliffs of volcanic rock, sand dunes, salt-flats, fishing villages, mild winter climate and affordable holiday rentals and real-estate has made this area a mecca for the snowbirds from the UK, Germany and Netherlands.
The villages and towns still have traces of the ancient civilisations, an Arabic fortress, and the watchtowers and ruins that line the coast bear witness to this areas historical significance. It was only in the last decade that a Phoenician village from around 800 BC was discovered in the little coastal town of Villaricos about 2 kms from where we sit right now.
The area is also a huge vegetable/fruit growing area, and has the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world. And although we look at the ‘sea of plastic’, a shocking 450 sq kms of it knowing that the workers supply more than half of Europe’s tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cucumbers, it is truly appalling to us. I also wonder about the working conditions of the mostly migrant workers employed in these jobs, and just can’t imagine what it must be like to have to work in those hothouses in the summer, where the temperature apparently reaches more than 50c.
You can clearly see the shacks built from old vegetable crates, pallets and discarded plastic with obviously no sanitation or clean water where workers live behind many of the greenhouses.
As we drove along, the smell of plastic and chemicals permeates the air and offered the first scent of the larger environmental problem.
The greenhouses are almost all hydroponic—growing vegetables in water, air and a chemical stew of fertilizer. As these ‘farms’ are built all the way down to Mediterranean Sea I’m certain that some of that chemical, human and plastic waste must run off into that ‘lovely sea’ that the tourists still flock to in droves, that unless they venture a short way back from all their holiday lets along the coast may never see the empty pesticide containers marked with their toxic warning symbols, or know about the truly disgusting conditions the workers must endure.
Spain has been a constant source of ‘wow’s’ for us, but sadly this area is a ‘wow’ for all the wrong reasons.