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Spanish government blocks controversial irrigation law in drought-stricken Donana

The Spanish government has succeeded in blocking a regional law that would legalise further irrigation around the already-water-scarce Donana National Park, instead aiming to support sustainable practices financially.

The Andalusian regional government’s plan to allow further irrigation around the Donana National Park, an important wetland habitat and wintering site for migratory birds, has been heavily criticised because of ongoing concerns about water scarcity in the region.

“Not only the Andalusian or Spanish people were concerned, but Europe and the international community were watching us and asking themselves, what was being done with Donana?” said acting Ecological Transition Minister and Vice President Teresa Ribera.

Irrigation is used to help boost the amount of water available for farming practices but can have a detrimental impact on water levels in the landscape around it. While some irrigation is already allowed around Donana, many farmers in the region use illegal wells that drain underwater reserves, with the central government closing 220 such wells in a week, Reuters reported in April.

There have been growing concerns about the state of the water supply in the national park, with researchers warning in 2022 that the “overexploitation of groundwater is directly altering the temporary pond network located in the sandy area of the Donana National Park”.

“Some ponds have disappeared, and many others have reduced their hydroperiod and flooded area, which, in turn, have impacted the species inhabiting them,” they added.

Now, the central government has managed to block the regional government’s plan, replacing it with EUR350 million in social projects for the area where the irrigation would have taken place.

“I feel very satisfied because with this agreement, we can save Donana by pushing forward on economic progress,” said Ribera.

“This agreement allows us to save Donana and, at the same time, reinforce the economic recovery and social progress of the farmers and workers of the Donana area,” she added.

(Kira Taylor EURACTIV.com)

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