WWF supports protest against Spanish hydrological plan | WWF

WWF supports protest against Spanish hydrological plan

Posted on 07 September 2001
On Sunday (9 September) up to ten thousand demonstrators will participate in a protest in Brussels demanding that the European Union refuse to finance a hydrological plan of the Spanish government.

This plan foresees 863 infrastructure and other works to be built over 8 years, including 118 dams, and others mostly to allow water transfers between river basins.

The main one will involve transferring 100,000 cubic metres of water a year from the basin of the River Ebro, in the relatively wet North, to another four basins in the eastern part of the country.

The total cost of the plan is 23bn Euro, of which a third is expected to be financed by the EU. The River Ebro transfer will cost 4bn alone.

WWF supports the demonstration and the call to the European Union institutions. "The Spanish Hydrological Plan will break a whole range of European legislation, and it should be opposed by the EU governing bodies," says Eva Royo, WWF European Water Policy Officer in Brussels. "What is more, no money from the EU taxpayers should be used for its development."

The Spanish hydrological plan will break the new European Water Framework Directive, which all EU member states and candidate countries are now required to implement.

This water law has at its core a new approach to water management obliging European countries to "protect, enhance and restore" their rivers, lakes and wetlands, so they reach a good ecological condition.

WWF supports claims by local and national NGOs in Spain that the pharaonic Ebro transfer will destroy the Ebro delta, a protected area qualifying for inclusion in the European Natura 2000 network under the EU Habitats Directive, and in the world-wide Ramsar agreement for protection of wetlands.

The plan therefore will also breach the EU Habitats Directive that protects the EU's nature assets such as rare habitats and species.

It will affect many more sites of great natural value that should have been included in the Natura 2000 network.

According to WWF Spain (ADENA), 18 priority species and 14 priority habitats covered by the EU's Natura 2000 network will be affected including the Iberian Lynx and the Brown Bear. 82 Natura 2000 sites will probably be damaged.

"It is a foolishly technocratic project, something that with our scientific and ecological know how of today we can predict will be an ecological catastrophe and an economic failure," adds Alberto Fernandez, Freshwater Officer at WWF Spain (Adena).

The main driver for the Ebro transfer is irrigation: 55 per cent of the water transferred will be set aside for agricultural use in intensive plantations of maize, beetroot and other products in the dry south of the peninsula, many of which only exist because of EU agricultural subsidies.

Another 45 per cent will be allocated for tourism development and domestic use.

However, alternatives like water saving mechanisms have been neglected in the plan.

Demonstrations in the Ebro basin have been massive - 400,000 people were on the streets in Zaragoza to protest last year.

200,000 people joined a demo in Barcelona where some of the transferred water would end up.

10,000 people, mostly from Spain, are expected in Brussels for the final "European" demonstration following the "Blue March", which left Spain on 10 August and went through the areas of Spain most affected by the Ebro transfer as well as through France, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.

For further information:

Eva Royo, WWF European Policy Office, tel.: +32 2 743 88 00


The demosntration will take place on Sunday 9 September at 13:00, leaving from Gare du Nord, and marching down Bvd Du Roi Albert II to Gare du Midi across Bvd. Anspach. Contact: Blanca Rullo (Spain), tel. + 34 977 46 80 39 or 0034 607 31 30 78 and Montse Gisbert (Brussels), tel. + 32 2 520 49 97
Website: www.marchabruselas.com

A Press Conference will follow at 16:00 on the same day at the Asturian Centre (Casa de Asturias), Boulevard du Midi 100, Brussels. Contact: Maria Jesús Garcia Celma, tel. + 34 659 43 37 27(mobile), Gianluca Solera, tel. + 34 629 60 95 26(mobile) or Eluned Hâf, tel. + 32 497 480 255(mobile)