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Dried up avocado trees on a plantation in Algarrobo. E. Cabezas
Subtropical fruit growers in Axarquía demand 'urgent solutions'
Drought crisis

Subtropical fruit growers in Axarquía demand 'urgent solutions'

Farmers are organising a protest to call for more regenerated water from waste water treatment plants and a desalination plant to help the sector

Eugenio Cabezas

Axarquía

Monday, 14 August 2023, 14:59

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Subtropical fruit growers in the Axarquía area on the eastern strip of the Costa del Sol are planning a demonstration for Friday 18 August to demand that the authorities find “urgent solutions” to the drought.

Members of the recently formed Platform for the Defence of Agriculture, which includes growers from the Axarquía as well as agricultural associations and local administrations want to see faster action to provide more regenerated water from the area’s waste water treatment plants as well as the construction of a desalination plant.

The protest is being held in Benamarosa, which is the centre of an operation uncovered in May by the Guardia Civil's nature protection service (Seprona), together with the Environmental Prosecutor's Office, in which 250 allegedly irregular wells and connections, mostly in Benamargosa, are being investigated. The three irrigation communities under investigation, which together account for nearly 1,000 hectares of crops, have not given a statement on the investigation.

“Avocado and mango plantations in the area are drying up and being as owners have no access to wells the wells or because the we’re not receiving regenerated water from the Vélez-Málaga treatment plant," explained Antonio Miguel Hijano, provisional coordinator of the newly formed organisation and councillor for sports, education, health and agriculture in Benamargosa.

Controls

Among the platform's demands are for existing cultivation areas to be recognised and respected and that new plantations should be controlled and prevented if they do not have the necessary management and control. They are also calling for control of new plantations to make sure that they are not started “if they do not have the necessary management and control”.

"We are not the only ones to blame for this unfortunate situation, there are many more, the solution lies in regularising the situation and in everyone assuming their share of the blame", Hijano reflects.

He added that they are doing "a great job of disseminating" information about the protests through social networks and WhatsApp and said, "We are also going to go the old-fashioned way, with a car with a loudspeaker in all the villages of the Axarquía. We have to be all united in this fight, it is a cause that affects us all", he added.

Pumping water above legal level

The Junta de Andalucía recognises some 14,000 hectares of subtropical crops, of which 6,306 are located within the Guaro irrigation plan for farmers, which only allows farms under 140 metres above sea level to receive water for irrigation from La Viñuela reservoir.

The remaining almost 8,000 hectares were, in theory, supposed to use their own wells. However, the sector privately admits that they were pumping above the legal level. Now that no growers have access to water from la Viñuela, the regenerated water is currently reaching 3,200 hectares; 2,700 on the right bank of the river Vélez, and 500 in Torrox.

In Algarrobo, another almost 800 hectares are still waiting to be able to use the reclaimed water from the town's treatment plant, as it is producing high levels of saline, which means it can’t be used. Another 11 cubic hectometres of water from the Peñón del Cuervo and Rincón de la Victoria treatment plants are expected to be added in September.

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