If you are president of the Andalusian PP and you are in Huelva during an election campaign, you have an obligation: to promise a highway between Huelva and Cádiz, to which you separate one of the greatest environmental gems of Europe and a World Heritage Site, Doñana. Javier Arenas, former president of the popular, promised in 2014 that the first infrastructure that would tender if the Andalusian Government came to preside would be that. But he did not reach the presidency. Last November Juan Manuel Moreno, also in campaign, promised again to unite the two capitals with a direct highway. In the program of the popular figure that infrastructure and Moreno is since last week Andalusian president.
"We will build the Huelva-Cádiz highway directly and respecting the environmental environment of Doñana," noted the PP program. Moreno's team argues that it is too early to offer details of the project, although he assures that since this issue does not appear in the agreement with Ciudadanos, it is not a priority nor will it be undertaken in the first 100 days.
"The union between Huelva and Cádiz is a myth, a legend," says Juanjo Carmona, head of the Doñana office of the environmental organization WWF. Because, he argues, there has never been such a connection, mainly for geographical reasons.
Connection by road between Huelva and Cádiz
To cover the distance today between the two cities by car, it takes a little over two hours to get through Seville. "In the eighties, it was discarded to build a highway that crossed Doñana along the coast", recalls Juan López de Uralde, from Equo, about a project that went back to the dictatorship. And it was ruled out for environmental reasons and for practical reasons. "The type of soil would make it hyper-expensive," explains Fernando Hiraldo, head of the Biological Station of Doñana, of the CSIC, between 2000 and 2012. Doñana is made up of mobile dunes and marshes, very complicated land to build.
In the nineties, the Board of Socialist Manuel Chaves proposed as an alternative a union to the north of the national park, without entering the heart of Doñana. But the European Commission raised its environmental doubts and opened a file to Spain on this matter. Finally, in 2001 the Andalusian Government buried that project and sold as an alternative the S-40 ring road that is now under construction and will make the journey faster by not having to enter the Andalusian capital. This infrastructure has been delayed for years, mainly due to the enormous challenge of overcoming the Guadalquivir through the planned tunnels.
"Crossing the river has a very high cost", points out Juan Pedro Domínguez Castellano, director of the Doñana natural space, who refuses to comment on the PP's promise to ignore the specific project.
When Moreno spoke about this issue in November he argued that the highway was viable and that only "strategic points within the park" had to be found to undertake it. However, Huelva PP sources say that the project they have been defending for years is that of the north of the protected area, that is, the one that the Andalusian government discarded almost 20 years ago and that would not cross the national park.
"That project never set because there were bordering sensitive areas, protected areas," Hiraldo recalls. Doñana is something similar to an onion, with several layers of protection in which the most armored zone is in the center, in the so-called national park. But around there are more layers of protection than the northern highway project between Cádiz and Huelva, which defends the PP, would invade.
A zombie project
"It's a zombie project," says Carmona, of WWF, who highlights environmental complications -any project in the region arouses the interest of the European Commission and Unesco-. He also talks about the "immense" investment that would be needed. "And it would only save about ten minutes when the S-40 is finished," says Carmona. The project that has defended so far the PP would involve building another tunnel or bridge to save the Guadalquivir just ten kilometers from the projected since 2009 for S-40 in the Sevillian municipality of Coria del Río.
"This issue was really off the agenda in Andalusia," says socialist José Fiscal, who has been the Environment Minister for the past three years. Prosecutor also doubts the feasibility of a project that would only save 10 or 15 minutes compared to the route already planned.
"The intention is there, you will see the payment formula," say sources of the Andalusian PP. "We have always thought that it is positive for the two provinces, but then the feasibility studies will come," these sources add. "The intention of the PP is to do it in this legislature," say the popular.