Andalucia wants to expand strawberry cultivation at Doñana

by Lorraine Williamson
Strawberry cultivation near Doñana

ANDALUCIA – The Andalucian district council, led by the Partido Popular, wants to make another 1,461 hectares of land from the Doñana Natural Park available for strawberry cultivation. However, the drivers behind this seem to turn a blind eye to the alarming overexploitation of the area.

Just a year ago, the southern Spanish nature park was given the status of ‘over-exploited’. This was because the low groundwater level is seriously endangering nature. Hundreds of legal and illegal wells are being drained for the lucrative strawberry cultivation. 80% of which is intended for export. Apparently, that does not stop the parliamentary groups of the PP, Ciudadanos, and Vox from further expanding agricultural land. This in an area that is under the highest degree of environmental protection. 

The proposed bill for this extension runs counter to a ruling by the European Court of Justice last June. Spain was condemned for not intervening in the untenable nature reserve situation as a result of illegal water abstraction. UNESCO, which has recognised the Doñana wetland as a World Heritage Site, is also urging the Andalucian authorities to respect the nature conservation plan. But it is precisely this plan the PP and Ciudadanos intend to adjust, to the advantage of the fruit growers. If the proposal is adopted, the enlargement will be completed before the summer. 

UNESCO has asked Spain to explain why the country is not complying with the recommendations made in 2020. One of those recommendations was that a development plan should be drawn up to better protect the wetland of Doñana. 

Cogesa Expats

Amnesty for illegal immigrants 

The sub-board not only surprised international organisations with the plan, the central government and environmental movements also reacted with shock. Unidas Podemos called it an “attack on the environment” and spoke of “amnesty for the illegal immigrants”. The Andalucian socialists, on the other hand, kept quiet and announced they wanted to study the plan carefully because it is a “very complex subject”. 

Less rain every year 

The low groundwater level negatively affects 4.3 million people living around the Guadalquivir basin and is a real threat to the flora and fauna in the Natural Park. Experts find the situation alarming because it is expected that it will rain less every year in the south of Spain. Currently, the water supply of the Guadalquivir is only at 28% of capacity. 

PP MP Manuel Andrés González, who presented the bill for expanding strawberry cultivation last Tuesday, clearly sees no harm in the plan. “We are not concerned about what UNESCO thinks because we do not grant amnesty to anyone. Most fruit growers operate 30 kilometers from Doñana, but that’s just what the area is called in the plan. We want to further legalise so that the central government facilitates the hydraulic infrastructure that allows the growers to irrigate with surface water,” he said. 

Related article: Doñana National Park protection plan

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