Seven reasons to stop the Spanish National Hydrological Plan | WWF

Seven reasons to stop the Spanish National Hydrological Plan

Posted on 27 June 2002
Brussels, Belgium - According to a new report released by WWF, the Spanish National Hydrological Plan (SNHP) � which has been likened to the old Soviet style of water management � is illegal under EU legislation and could misuse up to �8 billion of European taxpayer�s money. It is also a yesterday�s plan that will not work, is environmentally damaging, and is not economically justified.

The highly controversial SNHP plans the building of 120 new dams in Spain as well as huge water transfers from the Ebro river to the south-east of Spain and from the Rhône river to Barcelona. WWF, together with other environmental organizations as well as numerous academics and scientists, believes that the project runs contrary to the idea of sustainable development.

Entitled �Seven Reasons Why WWF Opposes the Spanish National Hydrological Plan, and Suggested Actions and Alternatives�, WWF's report takes an environmental, socio-economic, and legal look at the SNHP and highlights all the levels on which the plan should not go ahead, and why it should not be funded by EU money.

WWF�s report also proposes actions and alternatives to improve and re-orient the SNHP, and calls on the relevant EU institutions to act responsibly and enforce EU policies and legislation, so the SNHP does not go ahead until it is revised and can be proven not to be in breach of any obligations under Community law � such as the Environmental Impact Assessment, the Birds, the Habitats and the Water Framework Directives.

WWF also calls on the European Commission to adopt and defend a joint position regarding the SNHP, in particular to treat it as a single entity (i.e. 'major project') in terms of EU funding and agree that the current SNHP model should not be developed with EU money.

"In light of the global push towards sustainability and the need to plan water resources within an integrated framework, this plan does not fulfil the criteria under the Water Framework Directive or the EU�s Sustainable Development Strategy� said Tony Long, Director of the WWF European Policy Office. He added that �The SNHP is also contrary to the principles underpinning the EU Global Water Initiative for Johannesburg, and should not be funded or supported on any level by the EU�.

Pablo Xandri, Director of Conservation of WWF-Spain/ADENA said �the Spanish government needs to undertake an in-depth study of water resource availability in Spain to see whether the SNHP is really needed. Further, studies that are also missing are: An independent Environmental Impact Assessment of the Plan as a whole, a proper cost-benefit study of its main water transfer � the one from the Ebro River - and to develop an in-depth analysis of alternative water management measures to the Plan�.

�The SNHP must be revised taking into account all this information and ensuring full transparency and proper public participation," he concluded.

The launch of the report comes one month before the Spanish government is expected to respond to a letter from the European Commission expressing doubts about the SNHP�s economic feasibility and long-term viability, and thus requesting further information about it. WWF welcomes last week�s European Parliament Petition�s Committee debate on the SNHP, where MEP�s from across Europe expressed their concern at the environmental impacts and the planning behind the scheme, which was likened to the old Soviet style of water management, and asked the Spanish reply to be transmitted to them.

To contribute to the current debate, WWF is now undertaking an even more detailed socio-economic assessment of the SNHP, which would also be made public for the sake of transparency. This new information should be used in revising the Plan so it does not jeopardise nature conservation and contributes to the proper implementation of sustainable water management principles, leading to higher economic and social cohesion in Spain.

For further information:
Angelina Hermanns
Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office

Tania Paschen
Communications Manager, WWF European Freshwater Programme