Is continuing to grow sustainable? | Canary Islands7

How to deal with the effects of population growth in a limited, fragile and fragmented territory is a recurring debate in the Canary Islands, which for years has gone from the foreground to cyclical oblivion, with few practical conclusions.

Now it is back in force with the unanimous decision of all the political groups in the Canarian Parliament to create
a study commission on the demographic challenge and population balance to try to answer key questions about the archipelago's model of society in the medium and long term.

Is it sustainable to continue growing at the current rate? Is it necessary -and possible- to limit growth to guarantee the sustainability of essential public services and curb the environmental impact?

During his time as President of the Government of the Canary Islands,
Roman Rodriguezthen representing CC, was the one who drew attention to the carrying capacity of the territory, promoted the first tourist moratorium that stopped hotel licenses and launched in 2002 a committee of experts on population and immigration to analyze possible measures to be adopted , the germ of the General Guidelines for Territorial Planning softened years later with the
Land Law.

From the Presidency of the autonomous Executive also
Adam Martin, Paulino Rivero and later on
Fernando Clavijo They promptly addressed the problem of overpopulation and the eventual control of the number of tourists, but the theoretical disquisitions did not materialize in institutional actions.

Statistics

The data is significant. Canary Islands, with 292 inhabitants per square kilometer, is already
the third autonomy with greater density of population of the State only behind the Community of Madrid, with 845 inhabitants/km2, and the Basque Country with 307.

The comparison of the evolution is also relevant: in the last two decades the islands grew by 26.7% compared to the 17% state average. Between 1999 and 2007 the Canarian population experienced a boom and increased by 500,000 people, going from 1.5 million inhabitants to 2 million in just eight years.

Then the growth has moderated to just over 2.2 million today, but the projection of the European statistical office Eurostat suggests that at the current rate the islands will reach 2.6 million inhabitants in 2050.

key data

  • 292.
    Canarias is the third autonomous community in number of inhabitants per square kilometer, only below the Community of Madrid (845) and the Basque Country (307).

  • Above average.
    If the evolution is compared, the data is also relevant: in the last two decades the islands grew by 26.7% compared to 17% for the State as a whole, a difference of almost 10 points.

  • 2050.
    If the current rate is maintained, the European statistical office, Eurostat, estimates that the population of the islands will reach 2.6 million people by mid-century, 400,000 more than now.

  • concentrated in the capitals.
    80% of the population of the islands resides on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife. If you look at the two capitals, the population density shoots up to more than 3,700 people per square kilometer in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and 1,400 in the case of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

"Future projections are made on the basis of previous growth dynamics, which experience indicates are not always fulfilled," clarifies the director of the Canary Institute of Statistics (Istac), Gonzalo Rodríguez López, "but in any case it is It is very interesting that a reflection on the demographic challenge is reopened, because population growth must go hand in hand with health and educational assistance, solutions to mobility problems and an urban planning concept that is different from the one we have now. It is a necessary debate », he adds.

Rodríguez, who as a sociologist has been compiling and analyzing data for more than thirty years, regrets that the studies carried out so far on the evolution of the population of the islands have only been published in books. "Some conclusions from twenty years ago are still valid today, progress could have been made at that time and it has not been done," he says.

However, he does not venture to make a generic diagnosis of the current situation, because he puts before all his reflections the premise of the complexity of addressing
a multifaceted debate possible.

Population growth requires political and regulatory solutions to move towards another social model

“It is not possible to give a single answer because many factors intervene, you have to go looking part by part,” he explains, “Is the Canary Islands overpopulated? Well, relatively, there are areas that clearly do, because 80% of the population lives on the capital's islands, but on the rest of the islands -except Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, which have grown a lot- there is no such problem », he adds.

The very multifactorial nature of the rest of the demographic that the archipelago faces requires, in the opinion of the director of Istac, to evaluate, rank and organize all the elements in order to, from there, seek political and regulatory solutions aimed at an intelligent transition towards another social model, with measures not so much ideological as pragmatic.

"In planning for the future
It should be assessed how the system will be and the repercussions that it is going to have", he points out, "if we look at the population pyramid we see that it is shaped like a pine tree, it has narrowed at the base because the birth rate has dropped a lot and that must be taken into account to anticipate its effects on the economy".

There are no easy solutions, where to put the limits? The free movement of people is a right enshrined in the EU and reducing accommodation places would have negative effects for an economy highly dependent on tourism. The population continues to grow, which requires more services, infrastructure and housing, in a territory with 40% of its protected space. The carrying capacity of the archipelago is once again in the political debate.

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