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Parque Nacional Doñana, in Andalucía's Seville and Huelva provinces. SUR
European Commission slams Junta's controversial irrigation plan for Doñana

European Commission slams Junta's controversial irrigation plan for Doñana

Officials said the regional government's proposal, in its current form, could damage the delicate wetlands in Andalucía

Héctor Barbotta

Seville

Wednesday, 26 April 2023, 09:28

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A controversial regional government proposal to authorise using water for farming on more land alongside delicate national park wetlands in Doñana has been rejected by EU officials.

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.

But this week at a meeting in Brussels European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius expressed his doubts about the plan to Andalusian Minister for Sustainability Ramón Fernández-Pacheco.

Virginijius Sinkevicius and Ramón Fernández-Pacheco in Brussels.
Virginijius Sinkevicius and Ramón Fernández-Pacheco in Brussels. SUR

Sinkevicius said the Commission was deeply concerned that if the law was approved in its current form, could degrade the protected wetland of Doñana.

He also criticised the Spanish Government's insufficient action to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Justice, which obliged it to protect the land.

Sinkevicius said intensive agriculture and nearby tourist resorts had contributed to the drying up and reduction of reservoirs in Doñana.

He said the draft law created a favourable legal framework for the water to be used even more, putting more pressure on already overexploited groundwater aquifers.

The proposed legislation seeks to provide a solution for irrigators 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.

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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