… or is it? As regional government backtracks on water plans, green groups claim Trevelez river is turning into a “sewer”
LOCAL residents and green groups are celebrating after the regional government backtracked on a plan that could have led to the destruction of one of Spain’s most spectacular areas of natural beauty.
The Junta de Andalucía had planned on pumping 52 litres of water per second from the Trevélez river to supply a planned second reservoir in the Contraviesa mountain range.
Opponents of the project claimed this would have led to the river drying out and the mountainous Alpujarra region – made famous by Driving over Lemons author Chris Stewart – faced with desertification.
Now, following months of fierce opposition and threats of legal action from locals, environmental groups and even a political party, the regional government has decided against building the seven-million euro, 350-million-litre capacity reservoir.
Instead, up to 20 litres of extra water per second will be pumped to the existing reservoir in times of high demand from its existing source – the Castaras acequia (irrigation channel).
Speaking at a press conference to announce the decision, Joan Corominas from the regional water board, Agencia de Aguas Andalúz, said: “The important thing is not the construction of a second, but meeting the current demands of the Contraviesa through the existing reservoir.
“Although 13,000 people live in the Contraviesa, this figure can jump to more than 20,000 during the summer. It is at this time more water will be pumped to the existing reservoir,” he added after meeting with Granada representatives from the Junta and 22 local mayors.
Corominas also eased fears that future construction on the coast would lead to the plans being put back into action.
“Water for any future construction work or housing developments will be supplied from the Rules dam.
“We are sensitive to the fact water plays such a huge role in the identity of la Alpujarra, which is famous for its spectacular scenery, fauna and flora,” he said.
Maria Aragon, a spokeswoman for the Mesa del Agua de la Alpujarra group which had campaigned against the proposed second reservoir, welcomed the Junta’s decision.
“We are satisfied with the outcome. The Trevélez river was going to be drained to supply water to the coast. This would have led to the unique landscape of la Alpujarra being destroyed,” she said.
However, some local groups are unhappy with this alternative, claiming towns and villages in the Contraviesa mountain range should already be supplied with water from Rules dam.
Amadeo Jiménez, the head of the Trevélez water association, said: “The solution is not to take more water from us but to use Rules.”
The shelved second reservoir has been mired in controversy since its inception in 2005, with claims it was illegally included in an emergency drought plan intended solely for the Málaga province.
The United Nations had even voiced their concerns over the project, claiming the water from the second reservoir “would be used for dubious housing and golf projects on the coast.”
The Junta had always denied this claim, but opponents to the scheme were never convinced and the provincial Green party was prepared to take the regional government to court, claiming it was in possession of documents showing the water was destined for a nearby golf course complex and invernaderos (plastic greenhouses).
Nearby residents also faced having 135,000 square metres of land forcibly expropriated to make way for the multi-million euro project. One of those was Briton Tony Angel, who moved to the area in 2001.
“My wife and I are very pleased with the cancellation of this project. A great weight has been lifted from our shoulders.
“The whole area would have been environmentally – and economically – ruined,” he said.
Meanwhile, environmentalists fear la Alpujarra could still be faced with the threat of desertification.
Ecologistas en Accion has claimed the Trevélez river, which flows through both the Sierra Nevada Natural and National Park, is still in danger of drying out as human waste turns it into “a sewer.”
The group claims that nothing is being done to clean the river, despite complaints being made annually since 1999 to the public prosecutor.
The group allege that the authorities are not interested in cleaning up the river.
“Ever since we started making these complaints, the authorities are always finding some excuse not to do anything,” a spokesman for the group said.