The rights that represent PP, Vox and Ciudadanos in Andalusia are willing to risk the future of Doñana, a World Heritage Site, by expanding the irrigated land around the national park. The three parties have approved processing a law that ends up legalizing between 1,400 and 1,900 hectares of farms that now irrigate without permission. The PSOE has abstained.
A PP plan threatens Doñana with a new water war
The express requests of the European Commission, the central government and UNESCO to stop the initiative have not made a dent to PP, Vox and Ciudadanos either. The three institutions have sent letters alarmed by plans to amnesty farms.
The Doñana aquifers are depleted. They are officially "overexploited" masses" since July 2020. Doñana has not been sufficiently protected from the plundering of water linked to extractions from uncontrolled intensive agriculture, as determined last year by the European Court. Doñana survives from the water of the Hydrographic Demarcation of the Guadalquivir that declared in "extraordinary drought" in October 2021 and lives in a state of alert due to the scarcity of resources to satisfy the demands, more than 85% to irrigate.
Even so, the bill establishes that all these farms must be requalified as irrigable agricultural land because they had been implanted before the 2014 Management Plan was launched, which identified the 9,000 hectares of irrigated land admitted today. This decree is known as the Strawberry Plan because it has been the boom of these and other red fruits that multiplied the intensive irrigation under plastic that was sucking the water underground based on wells.
"Unthinkable to expand irrigation"
"It is a deception to the people, who do not know if they are going to let themselves be deceived, because the law does not have any course", affirms, Juan Romero, delegate of Ecologists in Action in Doñana. "First because of the ruling of the European Court and second because the Guadalquivir Confederation has affirmed that it is unthinkable to expand irrigation."
Precisely, the The European Commission has made reference to that court ruling when expressing "deep concern" about this initiative. And he recalled that there is room for Brussels to activate the regulation so that the sentence is carried out. The third vice president of the Government, Teresa Ribera, wrote this Tuesday to the Andalusian president, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, asking for "the need to abandon the initiative in the face of the enormous economic, environmental and image damage for Spain."
Carlos Davila, head of SEO-Birdlife in Doñana, describes that "the situation is that water is very scarce, which forces us to adapt", and analyzes that the proposal "is an electoral movement that tries to polarize farmers against conservation when what must be defended is agriculture in Doñana, but rational".
In addition to the EC and Ecological Transition, UNESCO has asked Spain to inform it about the plan to modify irrigation to know the effects that this new management could have on the natural space. Doñana was declared a World Heritage Site in 1994.
Competition on the right
But the modification of the plan was a commitment that they have been reminding the president of the Board, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla (PP). The president of the Popular Party in Huelva, Manuel Andrés González, told the County Farmers Association in December 2018: "The Government of change will be the one that does justice." Manuel Andrés González has been in charge of defending the PP's proposals in the Andalusian Parliament on Wednesday.
In November 2021, almost three years after those words of the popular deputy, the VOX group sent a non-law proposal to the assembly that urged the Executive of Moreno Bonilla to review the regulations around Doñana. The far-right party had entered Parliament in the regional elections of 2018. In 2019, in the municipal elections, Vox grew in the province of Huelva by 350%. It went from just 1,000 votes in 2015 to more than 4,500. From 0.4% of the votes to 1.8%. In the general elections in December of that year, the extreme right surpassed the PP by adding 52,000 votes. The 21st%.
Even so, both the PP and VOX have denied this Wednesday that they are in an electoral race when processing this proposal. "This initiative has nothing to do with water or with Doñana," said the popular spokesman. The representative of Vox has stated: "It is impossible for the Doñana aquifer to be put at risk since it only affects territorial planning."
Ammunition against the Government
What both politicians are referring to is that the Autonomous Community of Andalusia cannot authorize the use of the water used by the farms that plan to grant amnesty. His project will requalify the land to consider it irrigable, but the use of water is managed by the Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation, that is, the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
The Guadalquivir Hydrological Plan in force dating from 2016 includes the impossibility of new irrigable hectares beyond what was planned. "The new plan that will enter into force in spring, contemplates the zero increase of new hectares of irrigated land", explain sources from the agency.
In this sense, Vice President Teresa Ribera explained that, without more water permits, "rights would have to be taken away from legal irrigators in order to give them to [ahora] illegal". The president of the irrigators of El Condado, Juan Antonio Millán, has replied that these words "are unfounded" and that "we do not like that comparative grievances between Huelva irrigators be encouraged, since we are all equal".
However, the right-wing movement has created a real divide in the agricultural sector as evidence that farmers legal of the municipality of Almonte have been unmarked. "It represents a new comparative offense because the results that the irrigation platform is achieving are not the same for all farmers or for all municipalities, in fact, the transfer approved by the central government only reaches the western part of the region and nobody It explains how we still haven't solved that inequality," says Cristóbal Ibáñez, a local councilor.
"It seems clear that it is a kick forward and throw the ball to the central government," says Juan Romero. All the groups on the right, Ciudadanos, PP and Vox, have said that the water can come through a transfer from the Tinto-Odiel-Piedras basin whose law was approved in 2018. It lacks the works that pump the liquid from a site to another.
But that same law to which they refer indicates that those 19.9 hm3 that it authorizes to transfer have the mission, among other things, of stopping the extraction of water for legal farms in the Doñana environment. It expressly prohibits the extension of irrigated farms.
"The transferred water may only be used for the irrigation of irrigable agricultural land determined by the Special Plan for the management of irrigated areas located north of the Doñana forest crown," says the law. Precisely that plan is what is intended to be modified to include up to 1,900 unauthorized hectares in 2018 when the transfer was approved.
Two motions in one
The political and electoral varnish that bathes the issue has more extremes. This Wednesday, the Plenary Session of the Parliament has voted two equal proposals on the management plan in Doñana. One signed by the PP and Vox. And another presented by the PP and Citizens. Almost the only appreciable difference was the list of signatories.
In the session, the PSOE has abstained. Last Friday, the PSOE in the Provincial Council of Huelva carried out a motion that urged the Junta de Andalucía to modify the irrigation management in Doñana and classify as agricultural farms those that were not in production when the current 2014 plan was drafted "and have not committed illegality", that is, irrigate without permits. At the same time, he voted in favor of a motion to support the bill seen this Wednesday in Parliament promoted by the PP.
The councilor from Almonte reflects that "in the region, farmers and society have taken a small step towards sustainability and I don't think we want to go back. I think it would be more useful if the Board proposed measures aimed at diversifying the economy and boosting the areas rural areas with projects outside the framework of agriculture. That is also sustainability".