Spain at Risk of Desertification Due to Intensive Agriculture in Greenhouses
Two-thirds of Spain is at risk of desertification, according to a recent report. The country’s climate crisis is exacerbating the situation, leading to conflicts related to the use of water. One of the most outstanding nature reserves in Europe, Doñana, and its surroundings are particularly affected.
In the province of Andalusia in southern Spain, Euronews-WITNESS reporter Hans von der Brelie investigates the illegal water wells that are contributing to the problem. Intensive agriculture in greenhouses is spreading across the area, with 80% of Spain’s berry production grown there. However, this is taking a toll on the region’s water resources.
Illegal extensions of greenhouse surfaces and water pumping stations proliferate, causing areas of land to turn into “Swiss cheese.” Antonio Santos, head of the inspection unit of the Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation, closes illegal water intakes regularly. However, the process is not easy, and legal proceedings can take up to eight years.
Farmers, who defend their wells, can make matters worse. Rangers patrol the Doñana reserve’s borders, trying to preserve the park. It is protected by the European Union’s Natura 2000 Network. The European Commission is concerned about the recently proposed regional bill that would legalize the “irregular structures” created by berry growers.
Nature conservationists at the WWF are also concerned. Felipe Fuentelsaz, a member of the organization, describes the situation as “like the Wild West,” with 2,000 hectares of “illegal” crops and 1,000 “illegal” wells.
The disputes continue, with Julio Díaz, a greenhouse owner’s representative, accusing the WWF of using non-scientific methods and attacking the government for not supplying enough surface water from other places in a timely manner. However, Sergio González Asián, a naturalist and ornithologist, shows the impact of the drought on migratory birds. Normally present in large numbers, only 1,200 greylag geese have arrived this year, leading to a decline in biodiversity.
In conclusion, experts argue that more attention needs to be paid to the water resources in the area. It’s necessary to find ways to balance the competing demands of the agricultural industry and the environment. Only then can a sustainable future for the region be achieved. The solution lies in sharing resources, rather than exploiting them.