‘Dutch plan’ proposed to save the Ebro Delta in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
Delta Ebro

DELTEBRE – The Ebro Delta, which has expanded steadily over 6,000 years, has not grown in the last 50 years. In fact, increasing erosion combined with the lack of sediment has caused the area to shrink. 

This erosion threatens the local population, the rich ecosystem and the local economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism and food production, especially rice cultivation, fishing and aquaculture. 

In 2020, storm Gloria made it clear how fragile the area is when part of the Barra del Trabucador, the strip of land that connects the delta to the Punta del Fangar, partially disappeared. 

To prevent further damage and restore the area, multiple solutions have been proposed. One is to recover sediments now held by dams, such as those in Mequinensa, Riba-roja and Flix. A pilot is planned to extract 100,000 m3 of sediment from Riba-Roja and return it to the delta. 

Cogesa Expats

Another important aspect is the management of fresh water, which is crucial for both the delta’s ecosystem and local rice production. The Generalitat plans to invest €36 million in this. 

‘Dutch plan’ 

But the most striking proposal, as the newspaper El Periodico explains in a beautifully illustrated report, is the so-called ‘Dutch plan’. This involves placing large amounts of sand, not only to restore the beach but also to create a natural sand barrier. This method, previously successfully applied on the coast of The Hague, aims to “cooperate with the water” and naturally create dunes that reinforce the coastline. 

The Netherlands has years of experience in the battle against the sea, with dykes and dunes that keep seawater out. Furthermore, this ‘Dutch model’ has proven to be effective in The Hague, where 21.5 million cubic metres of sand was used to create an artificial sandbank. 

The proposal of the Catalan government (the Generalitat) is to follow this Dutch approach and make investments that would prevent further damage from future storms, such as Gloria. Moreover, the Spanish government is called upon to agree to this and to provide the necessary financial resources. According to the Generalitat, without significant investment, the future of the Delta of the Ebro is at risk. 

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