THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has once again warned the Andalusian regional government that its plans to grant new watering rights to farmers in the area around the Doñana National Park could further damage the wetlands and contravene a ruling from the EU’s Court of Justice obliging their protection.
That was the result of a meeting in Brussels on Monday between Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, who is the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and the Andalusian regional environment chief Ramon Fernandez-Pacheco.
Fernandez-Pacheco travelled to the European Commission after the Andalusian parliament approved legislation earlier this month that could pave the way for some 800 hectares of irrigable farmland located near the protected wetlands to be regularised.
But scientists have warned that this will put even more pressure on the Doñana park, depleting the levels of its aquifer even more than they are now. Around 60% of the temporary lagoons in Doñana have not flooded since 2013, which has led to the disappearance of flora and fauna.
The European Commission has a long-running probe into the over-exploitation of the park’s aquifer, and has previously warned that it will ‘take all measures necessary’ to protect the park.
The legislation is being fast-tracked and was passed on April 12 with the votes of the governing Popular Party and far-right Vox.
Sources cited by Spanish news agency Europa Press said that the EC is ‘deeply concerned’ about the proposed legislation, and that further pressure on the wetlands could have a disastrous effect on the conservation of the fragile ecosystems.
The plan has also opened up a battle between the Andalusian administration and the central government, which is run by a coalition of the Socialist Party and leftist Unidas Podemos.
‘[The regional government] is still messing around with something that could cost Spaniards a lot of money in exchange for nothing,’ said Environmental Transition Minister Teresa Ribera on Tuesday, in reference to the fines being threatened by the EC.
Speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet, Ribera went on to state that the central government is planning to close all of the wells around the park in 2025, in a bid to reverse the environmental damage that has been caused not just by the use of water for agriculture but also for nearby tourist areas.
The Doñana National Park is located on Spain’s southern coast, on an estuary at the point where the Guadalquivir River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
It is a wintering site for half a million waterfowl and a stopover spot for millions more birds that migrate from Africa to northern Europe, according to news agency AP. It is also home to five threatened bird species, including the endangered Spanish imperial eagle.
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