Thursday, 13 April 2023, 11:20
A controversial regional government plan to authorise using water for farming on more land alongside delicate national park wetlands is one step closer to being approved.
The affected land by Parque Nacional Doñana, in Seville and Huelva provinces, was excluded from a special plan nearly ten years ago to control the amount of water that could be used on farmland around the protected area.
At a recent debate in the Andalusian parliament in Seville, 70 votes were in favour of the bill proposed by the PP and Vox, while 37 votes were against it.
The convincing vote comes despite major controversy surrounding the issue, which has drawn criticism from agricultural organisations, ecologists, central government and European authorities. The EU has even threatened to take Spain to court if the bill were to pass.
Irrigators are backing the proposed legislation which seeks to provide a solution for them after they were left out of the 2014 ‘Strawberry Plan’, which gave legal status to irrigation in the Doñana area and guaranteed their right of access to water for irrigation. The area has developed a strong reputation for its rich cultivation of red fruits.
That plan was drawn up on the basis of aerial photographs taken ten years earlier and therefore did not provide an up-to-date picture of the reality of the area, as it considered land to be non-agricultural when in fact it was.
Many of the farmers, in order to continue their work, opted to drill illegal wells which affected the water table which supplies Doñana. The Andalusian government has been desperate to find a solution to the situation, but it had so far proved no easy feat.
The national park is currently in a very serious situation due to the drought, and proposed water supply projects for farming have never got off the ground.
The Junta regional government says the change will make no difference to Doñana water levels, but the national government disagrees. Estimates of the land affected range from 600 to 1,700 hectares.
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