Andalusia considers more irrigation near Spanish wetlands


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – A plan to increase irrigation in an area adjoining one of Europe’s most prized wetlands is set to advance Wednesday when lawmakers in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia vote in favor. The proposal to rezone the lands goes against the advice of ecologists and repeated warnings from European Union officials.

The vote is expected to start the bill down the path towards becoming law. It is sponsored by the ruling conservative Popular Party, which holds an absolute majority in the regional parliament based in Seville. It also has the support of the far-right Vox party.

If the measure becomes law, some 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of land near the Doñana nature reserve will be declared as irrigable. This would grant an amnesty to the many farms that already use illegal wells to tap into the aquifer underlying the wetlands to grow strawberries for export across Europe.

The Popular Party says that its intention is to help farmers who are in a legal limbo regularize their livelihoods and pledges that the plan will not hurt the wetlands.

Ecologists and opposition parties, however, accuse the Popular Party of trying to win votes ahead of regional elections on May 28. The bill could be pushed through before the elections, although that is not guaranteed.

In 2021, the European Court of Justice condemned Spain for neglecting the Doñana wetlands.

Florika Fink-Hooijer, the head of the EU’s Directorate General for the Environment, told Spain’s government last month that the EU would not tolerate Andalusia’s plan.

Spain’s central government, run by a left-wing coalition, agrees that the plan would only increase the strain on the aquifer, which is already under stress from an extended drought driven by climate change and legal farming.

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Follow AP’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment


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