The Guadalquivir Hydrographic Confederation (CHG), the managing body of this river basin dependent on the Government of Spain, has sent to the Development Commission of the Andalusian Parliament, in which the law on the extension of irrigation in Doñana is processed, its technical report on it. A document very critical of the norm whose objective, "declaring some areas as irrigable when they will not have access to water", states that it is "at least, useless, and more accurately, a deception".
The CHG is one of the entities called to appear in the autonomous Chamber to give its opinion on the rule and, as in the processing of the first proposal on the regularization of irrigation that was truncated with the electoral advance, it has pronounced itself through a report, which is its usual procedure, as indicated by the Confederation. This body is also the one that should authorize, ultimately and whenever the law that is being processed enters into force, the arrival of water to farmers who are recognized that right to receive it, and has already warned that this will not happen, because the Guadalquivir Hydrological Plan prevents the increase of irrigation, something that he reiterates in a document that he has sent to Parliament and to which this newspaper has had access.
In its report, the CHG warns that the proposed law is incompatible with the Guadalquivir Hydrological Plan – which the Junta de Andalucía did not oppose – and with the 2018 transfer law, which is the one that guarantees the arrival of 20 cubic hectometres (hm³) from the Tinto, Odiel and Piedra to the irrigators of Doñana so that they replace with surface water the irrigation that they now obtain from the aquifers of the wetland —and that they are already worded―. It also claims that it contravenes European and United Nations provisions.
"The PDL is incompatible with the Hydrological Plan by directly contradicting both its regulations and its objectives [...] It is also outside European legality and international commitments made to UNESCO. The credibility of the Kingdom of Spain is strongly undermined by this initiative, "says the document in which it is warned that all this comes at a "particularly vulnerable moment" for Doñana due to the situation of extreme drought and the precarious state of the underground water masses of the enclave.
On the incompatibility with the Hydrological Plan, the CHG points out how in its report it is made clear "the zero increase in irrigation, except those already planned". The agency recalls that the Board never opposed these policies and reproaches it very harshly that, after six months of public consultation on the plan, the Andalusian Government did not refer in its allegations to the expansion of irrigation in Doñana, but two days later, on December 21, 2021, supported the first bill proposal. "It is incomprehensible, except in deliberate bad faith," says the report, which also emphasizes that the law that protects the Board is also contrary to the articles of that plan in which it is stipulated that "new concessions or modifications of characteristics of existing rights that imply an increase in the irrigable area or the volume of irrigation are not compatible."
The report also replies to the arguments offered in these months of controversy by the PP, Vox and members of the Andalusian Government that the law does not focus on water rights, but is a land use plan, that the affected area is 30 kilometers from the National Park and that this rule complies with the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 2021. On the first argument, the CHG warns that the law that is being processed itself states that the recognition of water rights "is a previous and essential step so that the use of surface water in accordance with law can be reached". The entity warns that water rights are recognized according to the forecasts of the Hydrological Planning and concludes that while the rule promoted by the Andalusian right aims to declare irrigable areas "that will not have access to water, it is at least useless and, more accurately, a deception".
On the supposed distance that separates the extractions of the National Park, the CHG warns that "the ecosystems of Doñana do not understand administrative divisions" and that "it is not true that the areas to be classified as irrigable are far from the protected areas", indicating that in the Guadalquivir basin, 93% of the irrigated area outside irrigable agricultural land is less than 5 kilometers from the limits of the protected areas, according to satellite images from April this year.
The CHG describes as "surprising" the statements of the PP that the new law partially complies with the judgment of the European Court because it asks Spain to adopt measures to preserve the state of the aquifer and wetlands since the rule will facilitate the arrival of surface water. "The arrival of surface water is not a goal per se, but a way to eliminate groundwater withdrawals. The present proposal makes this more difficult and places the Board directly against compliance with the aforementioned judgment," the agency concludes.
The report also warns that the Andalusian administration is against the recommendations of UNESCO, which recognizes that the Plan of the Northern Crown, to reconcile agricultural use with the environmental sustainability of Doñana, approved in 2014, is the fundamental basis for the management of this natural space.
Absence of environmental plan
The CHG also shows its incomprehension about the fact that this proposal for a law comes without any plan to serve as a basis for its formulation and that it should include an environmental assessment report on which the administrations concerned should have been consulted due to their environmental responsibilities and competences. "This has prevented the participation of this basin organization in a project that not only affects matters within its competence, but also deals with an issue as conflictive as Doñana." The entity is also surprised that the standard is advocated when the conclusions of the Doñana Aquifer Report of 2021/22 indicate that 13 of the 16 sectors of Doñana have a significant downward trend, and two of the three that are not could reach it soon.
The report also emphasizes that the law is incompatible with the 2018 law that approves the transfer of 19.99 cubic hectometres of water from the Tinto, Odiel and Piedra for farmers in the municipality of Almonte who now irrigate with water from the aquifer. The CHG includes one of the articles of this regulation to explain how the new standard would make the balance in Doñana unfeasible: "In no case may the transferred water be used for the creation of new irrigation outside the scope of irrigable agricultural land, nor for the extension or modification of characteristics that imply an increase in the irrigated area in systems of exploitation of deficit resources such as the River Basin of the Guadalquivir".
The CHG also warns in its conclusions of how this law is breaking the social consensus that was achieved in 2014 when the Special Management Plan for the irrigated areas of the Northern Crown of Doñana was approved. "Its approval would cause a division in society," he says.
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