The looting of illegal water that has depleted the Doñana aquifer for decades until it was declared “overexploited” a year and a half ago has found unexpected allies this Tuesday. PP, Ciudadanos and Vox have presented two bills in the Andalusian Parliament to legalize 1,461 hectares of strawberry greenhouses located in the surroundings of the natural reserve and whose farmers have stolen the water from their aquifer through a thousand illegal wells. On the edge of the biosphere reserve, there are legal farmers with permits to capture groundwater and other illegal farmers who steal it in mapped areas, 1,461 irrigated hectares, of which 335 stand out on forest land with maximum environmental protection.
The legislative change proposed by the three parliamentary groups violates the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU, which last June condemned Spain for not having stopped the looting caused by the clandestine greenhouses of red fruits “with illegal water extractions”. In parallel, the measure contravenes UNESCO, which maintains the Doñana wetlands as a World Heritage Site but which in its reports it has urged the Spanish Administrations to respect the plan designed to protect the aquifer. And precisely that plan is the one that PP and Cs intend to alter, which govern in the Andalusian Junta, with the support of Vox, the necessary parliamentary crutch to reach the majority and pass laws. The objective is to increase legal withdrawals from the already depleted aquifer and if its parliamentary procedure is not twisted, it will be a reality before summer.
“Unesco will ask Spain for more information before making a pronouncement, as established by the world heritage convention. Meanwhile, it refers to the last decision of the world committee in which it asks Spain to comply with all the recommendations of the 2020 mission, ″ warn sources from the international body that watches over the cultural and natural heritage. Among those recommendations to the Spanish Government, Unesco demanded that it advance in the development of the plan to protect the Doñana aquifer, and of which five years after its launch, the Andalusian Junta had only executed 17% of its measures, according to denounced the conservation organization WWF.
Both the central government and environmental groups have stormed out this Tuesday to denounce the intention of the three parties furthest to the right in Andalusia in an election year. The Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation (CHG), dependent on the Ministry of Ecological Transition, has warned that the initiative is “lacking a legal framework” and lamented its “lack of institutional loyalty.” The CHG manages the water and irrigation permits for the berries planted next to Doñana.
While Unidos Podemos and Adelante Andalucía called the measure an “environmental attack” and “amnesty for illegal immigrants,” the Andalusian PSOE was silent. The Socialists allege that they are studying the bill because it is a “very complex issue”, even though they have known about it for a week.
Information is the first tool against climate change. Subscribe to it.
The paradox is that the most emblematic protected area in Spain has its huge aquifer of 2,409 square kilometers under minimum and its almost completely dry lagoons. The drought affects 4.3 million people in the Guadalquivir basin, species of flora and fauna are fighting to survive in Doñana and experts warn that the forecast is that it will rain less and less in the south of the peninsula. However, the two parties that govern Andalusia and the extreme right plan to increase irrigation by 1,461 hectares that consume about seven cubic hectometres a year on the edge of the nature reserve, according to the calculations of agricultural irrigation experts.
“It is a direct attack on Doñana and this will cause a terrible image for the strawberry sector. Now we will attack European supermarkets and legal farmers will pay just for sinners, but it is an impudence to try to save a few illegal immigrants in Lucena and Moguer ”, has censured Felipe Fuentelsaz, agriculture coordinator at WWF. “The same farmers who beat up the river nursery are rewarded by legalizing them, and those who comply with the law are despised. It is the most disastrous thing I have seen in politics by a handful of votes, “he added.
The president of the Guadalquivir Hydrographic Conference (CHG), Joaquín Páez, has criticized that the initiative will only bring bad publicity for Huelva berries, 80% of whose production ends up in European supermarkets. “Putting Doñana and its agricultural industry in the international, European and national trigger, with markets so sensitive in terms of sustainability and environmental traceability, is reckless.” Páez censures that both the Board, as the PP, Citizens and Vox know that after the legalization of the greenhouses, they must have the allocation of water, and the body that grants it is the Hydrographic Confederation.
With the recent declaration of drought, a hitherto unprecedented scenario has opened up in the area of Doñana: it rains less and less and resources are scarcer, so if new farmers appear with irrigated hectares and acquire water rights, the first to be harmed it will be legal farmers who will receive less water from already dwindling reserves. The new Hydrological Plan foresees a reduction of irrigated crops of 5% until 2027. Meanwhile, lhe reservoirs of the Guadalquivir basin are only at 28% of their capacity and it still doesn’t rain heavily.
Faced with international alerts and the complaint from the European Commission to Spain, in 2014 the Andalusian Junta moved a file after seven years of studies and agreed on a plan that legalized 9,340 hectares and left those 1,461 hectares of crops out of order in the municipalities of Almonte, Bonares, Lucena del Puerto, Moguer and Rociana del Condado, all in Huelva. The Andalusian Board boasts of having a green revolution underway and maintaining a climate change and energy transition commissioner, initiative and body with hardly any real content. Both the Ministry of the Environment and the commissioner, Juan Manuel Muñoz, refused on Tuesday to pronounce on the proposed parliamentary measure.
Justice has opened a multitude of cases against these illegal farmers after the failure of the Administrative route. “A proposed law is a political question and in the elections the citizens will know what they have to do. If it is approved, we will see how it affects it, but a priori it will not affect criminal investigations “, has qualified the chief prosecutor of Huelva, Alfredo Flores. The Prosecutor’s Office will appeal “almost certainly” the sentence that recently acquitted 13 farmers and two former mayors tried for illegal water extraction in 13 farms. After the ruling, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the State Bar have asked the court for clarifications to correct omissions.
Both the Civil Guard and the CHG have fined non-compliant farmers, but they have been backed by their mayors and other authorities, such as the vice president of the PP of Huelva, Alberto Fernández, who harangued the farmers of Lucena del Port two years ago. “You are fucking great,” he told them. Until now, when a patrol of environmental agents closed a puncture in the land around Doñana, farmers made another a few meters to continue watering, thus leaving the aquifer overexploited and its reserves at a minimum.
The PP parliamentarian who presented the bill on Tuesday, Manuel Andrés González, defends the change in the plan: “We are not concerned about Unesco because no one is going to be amnesty. Most of the affected farms are 30 kilometers from Doñana, it’s just that the plan is called that. We ask for its legalization so that the Government makes the water infrastructures that allow farmers to irrigate with surface water ”. The PP alleges that the Government must carry out a planned transfer from the Tinto river basin to the crops near Doñana, works currently parked by the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
The two bills will be processed in the last session of the legislature before the Andalusian elections are called. The groups that support the Government will not be able to process the two initiatives by single reading, since they do not have the support of the opposition. They do claim that it is processed through the emergency route that shortens the deadlines by half. The Andalusian Parliament Board meets on February 2 and there it will order the debate of the first plenary session of the year to be held on February 9 and 10. Parliamentary sources calculate that between the debate in committee until its final approval in plenary session, “a minimum of two months” will elapse.
While illegal crops and wells remain despite police action and are fed by the aquifer, the temporary lagoons of Doñana have gone from 2,867 in 2004 to only two today, Santa Olalla and Dulce, both shallow.
#Vox #plan #legalize #hectares #deplete #Doñana #aquifer