Seven months after its entry in the register of the Parliament of Andalusia, the PP and Vox bill proposal to expand irrigation in the Doñana area It is already in the oven and ready for approval by the plenary session of the Chamber on the 27th, coinciding with the first day of the vote on the investiture of Alberto Núñez Feijóo. The Andalusian Government, which has hidden behind the parliamentary groups to avoid collecting technical reports that it would necessarily have had to request if the proposal had been processed as a bill, can claim victory, although with little progress. The acting central government is going to appeal the law in a “withering” manner to the Constitutional Court once it is published for invasion of powers.
The Development Commission of the Andalusian Parliament approved this Tuesday the opinion of the bill, with the same support with which it entered: the vote of the 67 deputies who make up the absolute majority of the PP (53) and Vox (14), and the rejection of the 37 of the left-wing groups (PSOE, Por Andalucía and mixed group-Adelante Andalucía). Except for some legislative technical corrections, the initiative maintains intact its objective of changing land use and classifying dryland areas as irrigable agricultural areas. The proposal does not specify the hectares, but the Government indicates that they will be around 700. Those hectares were left out of the call Huelva County Strawberry Planapproved in 2014, which regularized some 9,400 hectares in one fell swoop.
For those 700 hectares there is no water, unless its owners steal it (or continue stealing it) from the aquifer that nourishes the National Park, one of the main European wetlands, which is located at an “unsustainable critical point”, as scientists from the Doñana CSIC Biological Station have warned. These crops will be irrigated with surface water from the transfer of the Tinto, Odiel and Piedras rivers, not with water from the Doñana aquifer, which is “overexploited.” But this transfer, of almost 20 cubic hectometers, is already committed for the areas with water rights. And the transfer works have not been carried out. And those lands will not have water, but the law will increase their value in the market.
The law will be paralyzed immediately, as announced by the Secretary of State for the Environment of the Ministry of Ecological Transition, Hugo Morán. In an interview with eldiario.es, published on the 16th, assured: “The presentation of an appeal before the Constitutional Court will be devastating.” The Parliament’s lawyers assure that although the powers of an acting Government must be limited to dealing with ordinary matters, it is possible to present the appeal for reasons of urgency and general interest if the three-month deadline available to it approaches and there is no new government.
The date chosen by the PP to give the final yes will coincide with the media focus placed on the Congress of Deputies for Feijóo’s investiture, although everything that affects Doñana is followed by the second European Comissionthe UNESCOhe central executive and the scientific communityall against the expansion of irrigation in the surroundings of the natural space.
The promotion of the norm coincides with the notification to Spain by UNESCO that it is going to establish new indicators to determine the consideration of Doñana as a World Heritage Site. The UN agency demanded from the Government a retrospective report on the situation of the Huelva National Park based on the criteria by which it entered the list of heritage properties in 1994. Eva Saiz reports.
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These criteria are VIII, IX and X (by which places or monuments of an eminently environmental nature are examined). The first focuses on the unique particularity of the marshes, forests, beaches and lagoons; The second alludes to the formation of different ecosystems and their particularities, such as the generation of very dynamic dune trains; The third refers to the great diversity of flora and fauna, particularly birds, and lists the species and specimens threatened worldwide. “With the update of the criteria 20 years later, UNESCO must now set new indicators to determine whether they continue to meet the requirements to sign part of the list of protected heritage,” explains Juanjo Carmona, WWF spokesperson in Huelva.
The socialist Mario Jiménez has alluded to UNESCO’s warning in the debate and has requested for the umpteenth time the withdrawal of the law. “In Doñana there is no other path than dialogue. This law affects the environmental credibility of Andalusia and the reputational brand of the strawberry because you have imposed your vision and despise that of others,” he said. He has also accused the PP of “deceiving” the farmers in the area: “They have promised them water and it is a lie.”
The spokesperson for Por Andalucía (Sumar’s Andalusian brand), Inma Nieto, has stated that with this law “the final touch is given” to Doñana. “They consider lands that have been doing things illegally as legal. She is going to give a green card to farmers who have not done things well and who have given unfair competition to farmers who have justified every liter of water. It is disturbing,” she stressed.
The spokesperson for the mixed group-Adelante, Maribel Mora, has considered the proposal an “aberration and a shame because it legalizes dryland lands for irrigation and gives amnesty to people who are tapping water.”
The popular Manuel Andrés González has reacted angrily to this accusation. “No farmer is going to be amnestied. Those who granted amnesty are others. “They lie, they have not promised water, but rather compensation for tremendous damage to hundreds of families caused by PSOE governments.”
The left-wing groups have not participated in the amendment process, because they consider that the law has no fixes and the only thing that can be done is its withdrawal.
The WWF spokesperson, Juanjo Carmona, has called the Andalusian president, Juan Manuel Moreno, “absolutely irresponsible,” and has assured that “the amnesty law for illegal irrigators certifies that the corrupt practices that have been carried out in Doñana were admitted and “There is a call for their continued production.”
In parallel with the final stages of the law, the Andalusian Government continues with the purchase of 7,500 hectares of the Veta la Palma farm, south of the reserve, for about 70 million euros. The Ministry of Finance has authorized the operation, which will be financed 60% with European funds and the rest with the Board’s own funds. The fish farms of this farm housed the largest distribution of birds in Doñana, with 27,455 specimens last year, 34% of the total, according to the count of the Doñana Biological Station-CSIC, given that it is not affected by the lack of rain because its flood comes from the river.