European pressure to save Doñana

by Lorraine Williamson
save Doñana

MADRID – Five environmental organisations have handed over 260,000 signatures from European citizens to the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius. They oppose a bill from the Andalucian government. 

It wants to legalise almost 1,900 illegal hectares of estates around the Doñana National Park, one of the most important wetlands in Europe and a Unesco biosphere reserve, so that they can irrigate. 

Also read: Andalucia signs death warrant for Spain’s most important wetland 

The 5 movements (Ecologistas en Acción, Salvemos Doñana, SEO/BirdLife, WeMove Europe and WWF) have expressed their concern about the situation in Doñana and stressed the need for the European Union to put pressure on central and regional governments. This is to avoid further jeopardising one of Europe’s most important havens for biodiversity and wetlands. 

Fear of an increase in water withdrawal 

According to environmental organisations, the bill would lead to an increase in water extraction. This would put further pressure on the Doñana aquifer, which is already officially overexploited. Moreover, it would be a clear invitation to future illegal occupations in new forest areas. 

Letter from EC to Spain 

Earlier, the European Commission issued a stern warning to the Spanish government that the proliferation of intensive irrigation crops was linked to the degradation of Doñana’s habitats, which are protected by Community rules such as the Habitats Directive. 

Cogesa Expats

They also warned that since current water management does not foresee an increase in water availability, it was urgent to take measures to reduce consumption and restore the poor state of the aquifer. 

Surprise and indignation 

In their letter, the European authorities expressed surprise and indignation at the fact that instead of taking measures to solve the situation, regulations are being proposed that go in the opposite direction and would contribute to worsening the poor state of the water layer. As a result, they warned the Spanish state that if this bill was not stopped, the European Commission would again go to the Court to punish Spain. 

Reckless of regional government 

Environmental groups consider it reckless for the regional government to proceed with the current bill to legalise illegal agricultural activities in Doñana. This could lead to heavy economic sanctions to be borne by the citizens of Andalucia. It could even jeopardise the Next Generation funds for this autonomous community. 

Mocking of regulations 

As has been shown, the proposed bill by the governing party PP, led by Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, is a mockery of regulation and European authorities, as well as the ruling of the European Court of Justice. 

According to the organisations, it is indefensible to put Doñana in danger and to question the prestige of Spain and Andalucia. For this reason, the regional government of Andalucia must immediately withdraw this proposed bill and work on the necessary measures to close illegal estates and activities and restore the aquifer. Moreover, this should be done through strict implementation of the Plan de la Fresa (Strawberry Plan), as agreed in 2014 with the consensus of farmers, environmentalists, scientists and local stakeholders. 

Also read: Boycott in Germany of strawberries from Huelva to save Doñana 


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