Help, the Italian beach is drowning

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Italian beaches are rapidly disappearing. If nothing is done about erosion, it will be done by 2100 with sand shoveling and sunbathing.

“The beach has disappeared under our eyes. Eaten by the sea, year after year. ”That’s what Sara says from Marina di Massa in Tuscany. And so is the situation in large parts of Italy that is blessed over some 8000 kilometers of coast, of which 3500 kilometers of sandy beaches.

The culprit is the sea level rise as a result of global warming. In a study published last July in the scientific journal “Water”, researchers from Radboud University, among others, calculate that the Mediterranean Sea will rise to perhaps 57 centimeters in the second half of this century.

Artificial reefs

The Mediterranean also has to do with seismic and volcanic activities that cause the soil goes down. The Adriatic Sea is no better. The water level in Venice will rise around 2100 from between 62 and 80 centimeters.

Too much is being built on the coast. That is another cause that beaches disappear. Moreover, the rivers bring less and less natural sediment to the sea, because sand and gravel are extracted from river beds. Often interventions designed to prevent erosion, such as the construction of concrete barriers and artificial reefs, are counterproductive because they are too drastic.

The phenomenon of wasting beaches is not new. In 2015, Legambiente, a nature conservation organization, sounded the alarm. “More than 55% of Italian coastal areas have been transformed into cement,” says the report that was presented at the time. “There is an irreversible transformation of the coast going on, caused by urbanization.”

In some places in Italy, the beach line is full of apartment buildings, villas, hotels and harbors. Dunes had to suffer. There are very few of them in Italy. “Without dunes, the erosion will only increase,” warned Legambiente.

Sun worshiper

Other culprits are beachgoers. It has been a rage for years that tourists bring sand and shells as a souvenir. Last week the police in Sardinia found 14 large plastic bottles with the white sand of the island in the car of two Frenchmen. Violators risk large fines and imprisonment, but that hardly scares them.

There is not only evil will. According to a study by the CNR (the national Organization for Applied Research), every time a sun worshiper visits the beach, an average of 93 grams of sand disappears. The sand disappears through slippers, swimwear and towels in the gutter.

“In 2016, 933,370 people were staying in Capoliveri,” writes a campsite owner in this town on Elba, “if we multiply this figure by 93 grams, it appears that unsuspecting tourists have already lost 86,000 kilos of sand per year to the beach.” man proposes a de-sanding zone, where tourists are obliged to tap the sand before they continue.

In the absence of truly strategic plans, little can be done about erosion. Many coastal municipalities have many tons of sand brought in every year to spice up the beach. That costs gold money. But without a beach an important economic sector would be affected. The approximately 11,000 beach pavilions that serve beach guests in Italy provide hundreds of thousands of (temporary) jobs and a turnover of 15 billion euros.

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