26 Sep, 2008 @ 09:11
1 min read

To flood or not to flood


That is the question as dam saves ‘illegal’ homes but destroys areas of cultural importance

A WAR of words has broken out between the residents of two villages over the construction of a dam to stop flooding.

Locals from Los Villares, a municipality in the Sierra Sur mountain range in Jaen, want a halt to the proposal, stating that 16 sites of cultural importance will be destroyed if the government-backed plan goes ahead – including the protected Los Cañones cliffs.

But those from nearby Los Puentes are calling for the barrier to save their hamlet, built upon the banks of the Eliche River.

They claim that rising waters regularly wash through their homes, destroying possessions and leaving residents to foot the bill for any repair work.

However, the majority of these homes are “illegal,” claim officials in Los Villares, in that they are built within 50 metres of a water source.

National law states that constructions must be at least 200 metres away from river banks and lake shores.

Both central and regional governments and the City Hall of Jaen support the 45-million-euro project, which will see a 90-metre-high wall built next to Los Cañones and intermittent iron walls placed along the course of the Eliche.

But this will spoil views of the cliffs and surrounding mountains and destroy vegetation, claim opponents.

“If this goes ahead, it will dry out the local vegetation. Los Villares will be left with a desert on its doorstep. The dam will eventually cause water to flood up 16 areas, catalogued as Bien de Interés Cultural (areas of special cultural interest) because of their outstanding beauty,” said Manuel Molinos from the archaeological department at Jaen University.

The socialist council of Los Villares is also against this scheme, with Mayor Carmen Anguita calling it “stupid and an offence against the environment.”

Those in Los Puentes, however, cannot understand the anti-dam stance of Los Villares. They claim that the barrier could save lives.
“We only want security for our homes. Flooding has become a serious threat and we want to put a stop to it. All it will take is a sustained period of heavy rainfall and we are talking about the potential loss of human life,” said Joaquin Garcia, the president of a residents’ association in Los Puentes.

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