FARMERS across Andalucia are facing yet another threat to their livelihoods as thousands of ‘illegal’ wells are being sealed up and closed off, leaving swathes of crops without adequate water.
Over 100 wells have been decommissioned since the tragic death of two-year-old Julen back in 2019.
The young boy fell into an unmarked well while his family were nearby, prompting a large-scale two week rescue mission that captured the hearts of the nation.
Since then, the Spanish government has come down hard on the owners of
illegal boreholes and ordered the closure of any that do not fall into the new guidelines issued.
While the practice of well closure seems a logical decision, many farmers have been left without adequate water supplies thanks to the government’s lack of contingency plan.
In a country that is becoming increasingly dry and in very near danger of ‘desertification’ many of the boreholes provided the water needed to fuel one of the largest industries in the country.
Emilia Gomez, 50, a strawberry farmer from the Cordoban town of Lucena
del Puerto explained that since their well was closed, they have struggled with keeping their valuable crops alive.
He said: “We’ve been growing fruit for 40 years and it’s always taken water from the well. We’ve tried to legalise it many times but have always fallen at the last hurdle.
“And now they’ve shut down our wells without giving us another solution,” she continued.
According to Seprona, the police’s environmental unit, approximately 1,400 wells and illegal boreholes have been closed since the Julen tragedy, however Government estimations suggest almost half a million are still in use across the country.
Spain’s subterranean reserves have long been a lifeline for the country’s agricultural industry, but levels are reducing fast with many becoming polluted.
“For a long time, it seemed like anyone could just take water and use the land with impunity,” says Juanjo Carmona, World Wildlife Fund’s coordinator for Donana National Park.
However while he understands the danger in unprotected wells, Carmona has accused the local governments of ‘looking the other way’ for years.