28th January 2023
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Climate change blamed as winter drought devastates crops in Spain

In the region of Galicia in north-western Spain, the sight of rooftops emerging from the surface of the water in the Alto Lindoso reservoir is not uncommon during the height of very dry summers, but since the lake was first created three decades ago after a hydropower dam flooded the valley, this winter is the first time a ‘ghost village’ has been revealed in its entirety.

The village of Aceredo in Galicia was deliberately flooded in 1992 to create the Lindoso reservoir, but the once-submerged town has now reappeared like a ghost ship out of the gloom after the dam has dried up to 15%. Whilst the arid zones of the Iberian Peninsula have often experienced periods of drought, experts say climate change has exacerbated the problem.

The decrepit old stone works of the village are an indication of the extent of the severe winter drought impacting both Spain and Portugal, which is now devastating crops after more than two months with no rain.

With 10% of Spain has officially declared as being under ‘prolonged drought’, large areas outside this categorisation, particularly in the south, also face extreme shortages that could impact the irrigation of crops.

Around 50% of all Spanish farms are considered at risk due to the record low rainfall impacting rain-fed crops including cereals, olives, nuts and vineyards, and which could lose 6-8% of their production, Spanish farming organisations have warned.

Although the Spanish government is planning to spend around €570m to improve irrigation systems, the lack of rainfall has been blamed on the worsening climate crisis.

Over the last three months of 2021, Spain recorded just 35% of the average rainfall it had during the same period from 1981 to 2010. But there has been almost no rain since then.

Meanwhile in Portugal, 45% of the country is currently experiencing ‘severe’ or ‘extreme’ drought conditions, Portuguese national weather agency IPMA said, with the climate crisis bringing hotter, drier conditions that make agriculture increasingly difficult.

According to the Spain’s national weather agency AEMET, only in 2005 has there been a January with almost no rain in this century.

Spanish Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said last week the government would take emergency action if it did not rain in two weeks – likely to be financial support measures for farmers to alleviate the loss of crops and revenues.

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