25th February 2024
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Spain’s €1.4 billion plan to help protect Doñana National Park from drying up

National and regional authorities in Spain signed an agreement on Monday to invest €1.4 billion in areas around the Doñana National Park in a bid to stop the wetlands from drying up.

Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera said the plan was aimed at encouraging farmers to stop cultivating crops that rely heavily on water from underground aquifers that have been overexploited in recent years, damaging one of Europe’s largest wetlands.

‘This is an agreement with which we put an end to pressure on a natural treasure the likes of which there are few in the world,’ said Ribera.

Andalusia regional president Juanma Moreno said farmers will receive financial incentives to stop cultivating and to reforest land in and around some 14 towns close to Doñana. He said farmers who wish to continue cultivating will receive less money but must switch to farming dry crops ecologically.

As part of the agreement, Andalusia will cancel previously announced plans to expand irrigation near Doñana, a decision that UNESCO, the central government and ecologists criticised for putting more pressure on the aquifer. ALSO READ: Water resources and farming become key issues in Spain’s regional elections.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, Doñana is a wintering site for half a million waterfowl and a stopover spot for millions more birds that migrate from Africa to northern Europe. ALSO READ: Spanish government vows to block farming near threatened wetlands.

Ecologists working in and near the park have long warned that its ecosystem of marshes and lagoons is under severe strain because of agriculture and tourism. The situation has been made worse by climate change and a long drought, along with record high temperatures.

Andalusia recently announced a plan to allow the Doñana park to annex some 7,500 hectares by purchasing land from a private owner for 70 million euros. Doñana currently covers 74,000 hectares on an estuary where the Guadalquivir River meets the Atlantic Ocean on Spain’s southern coast.

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