THREE hundred illegal wells have been shut down in Donana in a bid to stop landowners from draining the precious wetlands dry.
Junta officials swooped on the sites which unscrupulous parties had been using to tap an aquifer on which the Sevilla and Huelva-based national park is dependent.
The closures are part of an ambitious 15-year plan to crack down on the rampant overexploitation of the water source by landowners, who have been using it to irrigate their crops.
Legal wells are also set to be closed through the project to ensure water levels return to a sustainable level in the park, a crucial migration and breeding ground for animals and particularly transient birds from around Europe.
The scheme also hopes to find a more environmentally-friendly way for farmers to obtain water.
“We are aware that it is not an easy matter, nor one that can be resolved overnight, but the work does not stop and several administrations are involved, not just the Junta but the government too,” said José Fiscal, the Junta’s environment councillor.
The announcement of the closures follows sustained criticism from environmental groups, who believe some well users have been granted amnesty.
According to a report by the WWF last December, it will take in between 30 and 60 years for the aquifer’s levels to recover completely from the current overexploitation if action is taken now.