22nd May 2024
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Guardia Civil arrest 26 people after raiding illegal wells, amid drought

The Guardia Civil said on Tuesday that it had arrested 26 people in raids on illegal wells in the Andalusia region, as part of a widening crackdown on unauthoried water use amid a prolonged drought.

The police force’s environmental crimes division said it had identified 250 infractions by fruit farmers including illegal wells and boreholes in the Axarquia area, east of Malaga. It estimated the damage to public water infrastructure at €10 million.

The Spanish government is urging increasingly strict rules on water use in Andalusia, the world’s most important region for olive oil production and a key source of fruits and vegetables for the European export market.

The State Meteorological Agency, AEMET, said on Monday that the average daily temperature in April was 14.9C – the hottest and driest April since records began in 1961. Rainfall was a fifth of what would normally be expected in the month, making it the driest April on record in Spain.

Water reservoirs in the Guadalquivir river basin in Andalusia are only about a quarter full, at 27.95%, even before summer has begun. Farmers in the region have had their water allowance for irrigation cut by up to 90% in some cases.

The situation in the vast agricultural heartland and in Catalonia means that Spain’s total water reserves nationally have dipped to 48.9%ALSO READ: Spain requests emergency funds from EU as drought hits farmers.

Water resources in Spain have become increasingly politicised ahead of 28 May municipal elections. The left-leaning coalition government has criticised Andalusia’s right-wing regional administration for attempting to declare an amnesty for illegal wells around the region’s Doñana wetlands, in contravention of European Union law. ALSO READ: Spanish government vows to block farming near threatened wetlands.

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